Search Results : Calming and uplifting herbs

Aug 012009
 

 

The taste of a drop of rich wildflower honey, a lick of peach elixir or a sip of spice infused cordial is sensual, comforting and ecstatic all at once. Humans crave and love all things sweet, and while it’s clear that this is the taste most easily overdone and abused, it still retains its own medicine and magic.  Bees, maple trees, beets and other sweet creatures gift us with their rich blessings, and when used wisely they can be powerful allies in the healing process and add a special magic to the amazing sensory experience that is life.

I’ve chosen to do a general overview of a wide variety of Sweet Medicines this month’s blogparty post, including recipes, tips and insights where appropriate. My favorite sweet medicines are always those that can be used in small doses as an effective remedy and still taste not just sugary, but of the unique essence and flavor of the particular plant. Likewise, I don’t use sweeteners in my herbal preparations to cover up or mask flavors but rather to enhance and bring out the taste.

The medicinal effects of many herbs are dependent, at least in part, upon their taste. For instance, bitters work primarily through activating the release of gastric juices and are triggered by the taste. This means that if you choose to bury the bitterness in sugar, you are losing out on a big part of the plant’s medicine. I much prefer to compliment and enhance the flavor of bitters with aromatic herbs and just a touch of sweetness (depending on the case and what’s needed) which, once you’re acquainted and comfortable with the bitter taste, be quite satisfying and yummy.

Let’s just be clear that I don’t deal in exact measurements (that would foster dependance in my readers, and besides, I just can’t be bothered with measuring tools) so please take my proportions and adjust them to your personal tastes. I am using the folkloric method for infused honeys, vinegars etc in this post, so relax and wing it, you’ll be fine without weighing everything, I promise.

You will note that most of my preferred sweet medicines (like elixirs) or those that are very concentrated and require a small (or even tiny) dosage, such as a few drops of Rose up to half a dropper of Elderberry Elixir. They’re basically the same strength as tinctures, maybe a little bit stronger, depending on the herb.

~~~Cordials & Tonics~~~

Cordials are basically a combination of hard alcohol (often brandy) and a fruit flavored syrup or concentrate. The result is usually drank in cute little cordial cups with dessert (or perhaps breakfast, if you’re hardcore that way) or added to sweet foods for flavor. My cordials are less sweet than most with intense taste, most often made with a combo of wild fruits and herbs and some good hard booze. Many cordials are often drank straight but I really like using them as a flavoring in teas or sauces or other foods as well.

My version of tonics are basically tasty cordials but with more of medicinal level of herbal concentration, still suitable for sipping but ~strong~.

All recipes make one pint of cordial or tonic.

Wild Canyon Cordial

  • 3/4 C wild grape juice (I suppose you could use domestic but it will be much less intense and complex in flavor)
  • 1/4 C prickly pear fruit juice (or several tablespoons of syrup)
  • slightly less than 1 C of Scotch
  • large splash (or two) of a good merlot or dry elderberry mead
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon tincture ( you can use a couple pinches of powdered instead if you like)
  • Mix together in pint canning jar, cap and ideally allow age and mellow at least a month before indulging. However, if you can’t wait that long (I never can), it’s good to know that the addition of the wine really smoothes out the flavor and makes it a lovely sipping experience from the get-go.

Southwest Sunset Cordial

  • 1 C Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce (I just use a jar of our home-canned, non-chunky sauce)
  • 1 C Tequila
  • juice of 1 Lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt (no really, it’s perfect)
  • sugar or honey to taste (depends on how sweet your sauce was and how sweet you like it, rose infused honey is an extra bonus here)
  • Generous splash of chardonnay

Mix together in pint jar and shake well. Let age for at least month.

Chokecherry Heart Tonic

  • 1/4 C Chokecherry bark or bark/flower tincture
  • 1/2 C Chokecherry fruit concentrate or syrup (possibly more if your concentrate isn’t strong tasting, ours is very intense and flavorful but the stuff you get from stores is often tasteless and terribly sweet and just don’t work for this)
  • 1 C Brandy
  • Sugar/honey to taste (very optional, just depends on your syrup and sense of taste)
  • 1/4 tsp of Cinnamon tincture (or a good pinch of powdered cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp Ginger infused honey (or just add a good pinch of fresh grated ginger)
  • Generous splash of Merlot or Elderberry mead (optional)

Mix together in pint jar and shake well, allow to age for at least a month. This stuff is strong and somewhat mind-altering (in a relaxing kind of way), so use in small doses. It’s an excellent heart strengthener for people with signs of inflammation, high blood pressure, heart palpitations and general heat symptoms.

Wild Rose Tonic

This is my most complex cordial recipe listed here. It’s not difficult, just multi-step. Well worth it in my opinion though.

First, make a half pint of infused honey with finely chopped, de-seeded fresh wild rose hips, plus 1 tsp grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp. grated fresh orange peel and 1/4 tsp cardamom. Let infuse for one month, do not strain.

Then:

  • 1 C spiced Wild Rose hip honey (as seen above)
  • 3 Tbs Wild Rose petal tincture (or more, as desired for flavor)
  • 1 C Brandy or Cognac

Mix together in a pint jar and shake well, allow to age for at least one month. This cordial/tonic is relaxing, uplifting and wonderful as a heart tonic, nervine, anti-inflammatory and bioflavanoid rich blood tonic. For a real treat, make a small cup of half Chokecherry Heart Tonic and half Wild Rose Tonic.

~~~Infused Wines & Meads~~~

This is easy, it’s just good wine infused with herbs and spices. It can be made with just enough herbs to add a bit of flavor, or it can be made more medicinal strength with a higher proportion of herbs.

All recipes are make one pint of wine.

Sweet Summer Cherry Wine

  • 2 tbs dried Chokecherry twigs, chopped
  • appr 20 Hawthorn berries, fresh or dried
  • 3 unsulphured dried Apricots
  • small handful raisins
  • appr 1 pint red wine or a dark mead like elderberry, blackberry or pomegranate. Alternatively, this is also quite good in apple wine.

Place together in a pint jar, and allow to infuse for at least one month before straining and using. Don’t forget to eat those apricots and raisins, they’re very tasty. This is another heart and blood tonic, great for strengthening the heart and building the blood, it’s also relaxing and a wonderful way to wind down.

Mary of the Sea Wine

  • 2 medium sprigs (about 3 inches long each) of fresh Rosemary
  • 1 tsp grated fresh Ginger
  • 1 tsp grated fresh Lemon peel
  • appr. 1 pint white wine or light mead.

Place together in a pint jar, and allow to infuse for at least one month before straining and using. This makes a lovely warming circulatory stimulant, digestive tonic and tasty addition to many recipes.

~~~Glycerine Tinctures~~~

This is what most people (including myself, in the past) usually call glycerites. However, glycerites are creations generally beyond the scope of the home apothecary (think: lab), and what most people are making are properly named glycerine tinctures.

I’ve never liked the cloying taste of herbs tinctured in only glycerine, and that added to the facts that glycerine isn’t terribly shelf-stable and that it is a very highly processed product have just reinforced my original leaning away from glycerine.

For a while I was making some of my elixirs with glycerine (plus brandy or vodka, never alone) rather than honey, but despite my general avoidance of all sugars I have gone back to using honey in my elixirs again. It tastes better, your body recognizes it as food (with nutrients and everything) and it comes from beehive rather than a factory.

Glycerine tinctures are made similarly to alcohol based tinctures, preferably with dried plant material because the water content of fresh plants tends to cause the glycerine tinctures to go off rather quickly. Also, aromatic herbs are those generally best extracted with glycerine, like Lavender, Chamomile or Mint.

For dried herbs, fill the jar about halfway with plant matter ( a bit more if using flowers or fluffy plants a bit less if you’re using root, bark or other dense plant matter), then cover with a solution of 3/4 glycerine and 1/4 distilled water. Stir well to release air bubbles, cover and store in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks before decanting. Use within a year.

~~~Herbal Elixirs~~~

An elixir (from my perspective, anyhow) is really just a tincture with some honey added for flavor, property and preservation purposes. It’s a super easy and very effective way to work with many herbs and flowers and berries are often especially well suited to this method, although almost any aromatic plant is lovely as an elixir.

Elixirs are really my favorite sweet medicine and I’ve become a bit infamous for my constant rambling on about Elderberry and Rose elixirs. Here’s a few reasons why I’m so fond of this particular preparation.

  1. The sweet taste brings out the aromatic flavors and heart healing properties of many herbs.
  2. Honey actually adds to how well the herbs are preserved and increases the shelf-life of the tincture.
  3. Unlike most sweet medicines, it can be used in very small doses, thanks to the particular combo of honey and alcohol. This keeps it from having much of a blood sugar impact.
  4. Because it helps to bring out the flavor and aroma of many herbs, the herb’s nervine effects are enhanced, often in a significant way.
  5. They’re also extremely simple and intuitive to make, here’s an example recipe made with Honeysuckle, with a few suggestions for other herbs that make lovely elixirs.

Honeysuckle Elixir

  • 2 C Honeysuckle flowers and buds
  • 1/3 C raw honey
  • app 1 pint of Brandy (or rum or cognac or scotch or whatever you like)

Fill a pint jar with Honeysuckle flowers and buds (pick a spp with very little or no bitterness), then add about 1/3 C of raw honey. Stir well so that the flowers are well coated. Now fill the jar with brandy, vodka, scotch, cognac or whatever you like. I actually prefer 60% alcohol with Honeysuckle Elixir, so I usually dilute some Everclear for this. Stir again, and then taste. If it’s not sweet enough tasting (it will initially taste mostly like alcohol so you have to guesstimate), add a bit more honey. Now cover tightly, shake well and then store in a cool, dark place (shaking occasionally to dissolve the honey properly) for 4-6 weeks.

This elixir makes a wonderful relaxing nervine, and is amazing for all kinds of hot, acute conditions including fevers, bronchitis and infections. It can also be used externally if needed.

Lavender, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Ginger, Vanilla (yes, Vanilla is an herb too), Cinnamon, Rose, Fennel, Anise, Mullein flower, Evening Primrose flower, Juniper berry, Borage flowers, Beebalm, Sage and so on… Nearly any aromatic plant, including most kitchen spices, make wonderful elixirs.

~~~Electuaries~~~

Essentially, a paste of powdered herbs and a sweetener, in this case honey. These are intense and very flavorful. In the past, they have often been used to hide the flavor of bitter or unpleasant tasting herbs. My recipes are meant to be used in small amounts, usually I just roll a little ball out of the some paste (about half the size of a marble) and suck on it slowly, but it can also be spread on foods or taken straight by the spoonful.

They’re especially good where the whole herb needs to be taken (instead of extracted with a solvent like alcohol) and where coating the throat and GI is an important part of the medicine. An especially lovely and elegant way to treat sore throats, bronchial irritation or sinus congestion. Just don’t overdo it, this is medicine not candy.

Here are a few recipes with proportions and usage suggestions and directions at the end.

Winter Cherry Nourishing Electuary

  • 2 parts Ashwagandha
  • 1/2 part Nettle Seed
  • 1 part Tulsi
  • 2 parts Elm

This makes a lovely moistening adrenal tonic very helpful in times of stress or depletion, providing energy while relaxing the nervous system and body. It’s fairly temperature neutral, and generally gentle enough for anyone.

Wild Rose Electuary

  • 1 part Rose
  • 1/2 part Sage
  • 2 parts Mallow

A great throat soother and excellent for calming down belly stagnation and heat. Powdered Evening Primrose flowers is very nice in this as well.

Basically, just mix your finely powdered dried herbs together in the desired proportion. Then, add enough slightly warmed honey (just warm enough to flow, not hot) to create a thick paste. Stir well, to make sure all powder is integrated. Check your texture and adjust as necessary, I like mine to be thick enough to roll into little balls but soft enough to be pliable. Using a mucilaginous powder as a primary part of your powders will help it all stick together better and will add a soothing, healing quality to the preparation. An electuary can be used right away, but I prefer to give mine a couple weeks to age and mellow a bit.

~~~Infused Herbal Honeys~~~

Beebalm Flower Infused Honey

  • 2 cups of freshly harvested Beebalm (Monarda spp)
  • appr 1 pint of Raw (preferably local) honey.
  • pint canning jar with lid

So easy and delicious, making this herbal honey is as simple as filling a pint jar with your Beebalm flowers and then covering with raw honey. Next, stir the bubbles out (chopsticks work good for this), top it off with more honey if needed and then cover and store in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks. Very often, I don’t even decant my Beebalm honeys I just use (or eat) it, flowers and all. It’s a spicy-sweet ambrosia that will drop you dead in your tracks in open-mouthed amazement at the taste of it.

A lovely diffusive nervine and relaxant diaphoretic, Beebalm honey has a wide realm of application, from sore throats to tension headaches to fevers. This is one of the world’s best wound and burn dressings as well, often working to heal even stubborn bedsores and longterm infections.

~~Oxymels/Sekanjabin~~

A wonderful beverage of herbs infused in vinegar and honey. It is acidulous and sweet at the same time, and especially good for remedies relating to the lungs and GI as it is by nature expectorant and stimulating to the digestive tract. It is generally very cooling because of the sour taste, unless you really spice it up with warming herbs. I prefer apple cider vinegar for most of my oxmels but red wine vinegar or others may be used in its place.

Basically, we just combine an infused honey and an infused vinegar together and violá, amazingly tasty Oxymel! If you use molasses (in which you can decoct herbs) instead of honey, you have Switchel.

Recipes online will have you make a sugar syrup and cook the whole oxymel, but I prefer a cold infusion which seems to result in purer, more refreshing taste with less of that syrupy flavor.

Mint Sekanjabin

Mint Sekanjabin is a classic Arabic cooling drink to enhance digestion and is very tasty too!

Mint Infused Vinegar

Fill a jar with fresh mint, cover with vinegar. Cover and store in a cool, dark place for 2-4 weeks before decanting.

Mint/Lemon Infused Honey

Fill a jar with fresh mint, then add two tsp of grated fresh lemon peel and the juice of one lemon then cover with honey.

Add 4 parts infused honey to 1 part infused vinegar to a jar and mix well. Now you just add a teaspoon or two to a glass of water, stir and yum!

Other herbs that would work well here include Basil, Holy Basil, Lemon Balm, Sweet Clover, Peach leaf and even Rose. Add spices to taste (orange peel and Ginger is great with Rose etc) and enjoy.

Aug 092007
 

Not an exhaustive list of course, but a small number of the plants I’m most likely to use in any given situation. Don’t forget to try Magnesium and other trace minerals for any seemingly random emotional problems.

These kind of plants often act very differently according to the individual, and so it’s important to proceed somewhat slowly and for the person to try to be self-aware and open when working with the plants, so as to get the most out of the experience.

And while plants can profoundly affect our process and our ability to be with our emotions, it’s up to us to work through our issues, and to have a fierce love for our own spirits so that we can mindfully and gladly journey through the pain and bliss, joy and terror, great loss and immense gifting that is our lives.

Evening Primrose – Great for food based anxiety in those recovering from eating disorders as well as depression arising from digestive problems (David Winston). I also use Evening Primrose hormonally related anxiety and depression, it’s a very uplifting and calming plant without turning your mind to mush. I also use it in general anxiety and depression accompanied by nervousness and stress. Perhaps one of the most overlooked emotional modulators out there.

Monkeyflower – Depression with fear, especially of pain and repressed sexuality. Great for those who’ve forgotten how to play like little kids, like SJW, I believe it has the ability to help adjust solar energies in the individual.

Blisswort (Skullcap) – Probably the nervine I use the most for myself. It has a special affinity for the nerves and so is especially good for those who feel like anything that touches their skin is electrocuting them or that they’re going to lose their mind from the noise when the stereo is barely turned on. Great for those recovering from meth and addictions to other uppers. Skullcap is a tonic and can slowly but surely rebuild fried nerves.

Peach – Calming, cooling moistening. An ideal calming agent for those dried out Pitta people who are so hot bothered they can’t even eat. Nice for stressed out, nauseous, insomniac mothers to be. Small doses are best, just a few drops really.

Rose – For anyone and everyone who needs to calm down and smell the flowers a bit more. Especially appropriate for those who have depression from a lack of self-love and anxiety from sexual or romantic betrayal/violence. Great for balancing fierceness and vulnerability, where those aspects are out of whack. Very useful in cases of hot, lingering forms of rotating depression/fatigue and severe anxiety with total lack of libido or fear of sex. For those who are burning themselves out from lack of love and compassion. Heart opening and centering for the whole body. Can you tell I use this plant a lot, it is, in fact, the flower that gave me back my heart.

Nettle – An adaptogen for the adrenals (Henriette Kress). Great for hypothyroid, chronic fatigue and brain fog. I haven’t tried it in depression per se, but have now used in on myself and a couple other cases where there’s overwhelming tiredness (and therefor, often a feeling of bodily depression) from adrenal burnout.

Sage – More than a nervine, this is a tonic for rebuilding the nervous system where there has been deep and longlasting trauma. It helps to restore the integrity of the feeling senses. Specifically useful where there’s shaking and tremors, anxiety with overwhelming fear, and profound burnout.

Western Mugwort – For those who have lost their trust in the natural order of things, who lack a sense of deep security. It can give a calm, “mothered” feeling to those who need it most. It’s an intense plant and can give some people nightmares. A sacred plant of many cultures, it’s best to ease into a relationship with Mugwort, and to be very conscious when working with it. Not everyone experiences the nervine/spiritual effects, some people just get the digestive and liver protective elements.

Monarda – A somewhat euphoric relaxant, stimulating to the circulation. Opens the heart to more fully experience the beauty of life (Matt Wood). Combines well with Rosemary and/or Sage.

Sweet Clover – A nice gentle relaxer with an affinity for moving stuck energy and patterns.

Lavender – One of my students calls Lavender tincture “a hug in a bottle”, this is so true! Lovely anxiety, insomnia and the depression that comes from constant worry.

Rosemary – Great for stagnant, cold depression in people whose digestion is slow and tense, subject to headaches and brain fog and a tendency towards low blood pressure and chronic fatigue.

Motherwort – A really nice relaxant nervine for the fried and frazzled with a tendency to palpitations and other heart stress. Good for those who’s anxiety wears them down into depression.

Wild Peony Root – Antispasmodic, calmative and an all over lovely plant, especially for those with an overactive reproductive system (short cycles) and useful for ovarian cyst pain too.

Elder Flower – An emotional restorative after immense grief, and a gentle nervine for those who need a bit more of Faery in their vision of life.

California/Mexican Poppy – A great general nervine for nearly anything, and it blends well with most other nervine type herbs too. I specifically like it for depression and anxiety from pain. Great combined with Blisswort and Sage for deep nerve trauma. The Poppy is about taking a break from whatever is torturing you. Herbalist Mimi Kamp has a story about being really really stressed out, taking Cali. Poppy and totally forgetting what she was stressed out about. And when she did remember, she didn’t care anymore. That is the nature of the Poppies. This particular subspecies isn’t addictive and while it is comforting doesn’t give the big oblivion some of its cousins do.

Corydalis/Golden Smoke – For hysteria, grief and fear so big that you can’t step away and even see what’s going on. You can only feel the terror and pain of it. This plant helps us calm down and pull away enough to see the bigger picture. It has its uses in severe chronic pain, but I usually prefer it in acute emotional issues. Very similar to Bleeding Heart (a close relative), Corydalis should be used with care and in fairly small doses (no more than a tsp of tincture at a time) and I use only a few drops at most normally.

Violet – Well, I haven’t tried the tincture for depression or anxiety, but just living near this plant is enough to make me joyful!

Jul 202008
 

 

Here you’ll find indications and specifics for a small number of relaxing nervine herbs. I have not chosen the most popular remedies of commerce but rather the plants I have worked with most intimately and who I have used time and time again. I’m not attempting to give you a huge overview of all the ways they can be used either, instead I’m laying out the ways I have seen each herb excel and pointing out some of the connections and insights I have gained through my relationships with them. Previous posts on specific herbs are linked to in the title heading of that herb. You can find a past incarnation of my Nervine Differentials right here. Some bits of it can be found integrated into this current post, but most of this is new, refined or otherwise changed.

 

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Vervain (Verbena spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowering tops – Bitter

A lifesaver when you’re so irate and uptight you could dismember the nearest living creature, with tense, tweaked, tied up in knots neck and shoulders. Great for PMS in women who have a harder time with the second half of their cycle and get ~intense~ food cravings. I call the particular feeling and intensity of feeling that are part and parcel of the indications for this herb “the need to bathe in blood” not so much in the sense of being angry or murderous but of having that much intensity, a kind of emotional/bodily tension that’s built up and has nowhere to go, and leaves your hair on end, your hands shaking and the people around you looking at you like you’re a crazed animal. It has the capacity to literally empty the head of all thought and stress where it is specifically indicated. I have personally felt and seen the neck muscles unkink and relax after a two drop dose.

Vervain is one of those funny herbs that effects different people in very different ways, some perceive it as a gentle nervine and others as a mind altering substance. Please be sitting down the first time you try it. Small doses are most appropriate here, if it’s going to work it’ll work in ten or less drops usually. Beside, very large doses can make you nauseous (really really nauseous, very unpleasant). Great for the irritable, restless phase of feverish viruses too, probably best taken hot as a diaphoretic tea for this purpose.

Many of the base indications here come from Flower Essence literature, Michael Moore and Matt Wood, and I have proved and expanded them many times over in the last several years.

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ChokeCherry (Prunus virginiana) – Cool, dry – Bark, flowers – Sweet, aromatic, bitter

Where the stress is centered in the heart/chest region, and threatening to keep you from breathing. A feeling of pressure or constriction around the lungs and heart is common. Heart palpitations or pounding may occur, as well as nervous stomach and shakiness. There’s also often signs of heat such as a red tongue, flushing, sensations of excessive heat and inflammation throughout the body. The symptoms will often have a normally sane, articulate and well managed person ready to climb the nearest wall or down the closest bottle of Valium. Five drop doses are usually quite sufficient to calm, and ten drops will usually stop a full blown set of heart palpitation gently but firmly.

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Rose (Rosa spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowers, leaves, hips – Sweet, sour, bitter

Indicated by feeling deep stress and fear, with an underlying sense of vulnerability, distrust, defensiveness and even paranoia. The person will often act aggressively or defensively (thorns) in order to hide or submerge fear, pain and the resulting stress. Especially appropriate for wounding focused around or deeply affecting sexuality and romantic relationships.

Can be very helpful to those feeling a deep, numbing depression that is once again, underlaid by fear. Rose people are often terrified of abandonment and betrayal, showing that at their deepest level, they are struggling with the balance between vulnerability and boundaries. For the best effect, it often needs to be taken in small doses over a long period of time. Varieties with a strong fragrance and large thorns are often the most helpful in my experience.

All that said, it teams up with Monkeyflower for an excellent kind of rescue remedy for trauma, hysteria and acute stress. It’s action here is more general, being both relaxing and supportive.

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Skullcap/Blisswort (Scutellaria spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowering tops – bitter

For nerves so frayed they’re about to snap, resulting in a very emotionally labile and reactive person. “At the end of their rope” is a very good way of describing it. These people have a tendency to flip out over (seemingly) nothing. They feel as if every sound, touch and bit of light is personally attacking them. Sensory hypersensitivity, as it were. They are exhausted on a deep level and need nourishment in the form of rest, nutrient dense food and nervous system restoratives. Blisswort is a phenomenal restorative especially for those with nervous exhaustion as a result of burned out adrenals.

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Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) – Neutral, moist – Flowering tops – Sweet

For sadness and stress accompanied by a sense of joylessness and lack of wonder. A true sunshine remedy that brightens the spirits and can alleviate mild to moderate depression. It has also proven helpful for when someone is wound up on stimulants of any kind, to bring them back to earth from a hyped up, strung out place. Likewise, it can very useful when someone is hysterical to the point of being paranoid, unreasonable and frantic. It won’t sedate them into a stoned out kind of place, merely bring them back to the present moment and solid ground. I’ve also seen it help alleviate chronic insomnia with restlessness and frequent waking.

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Sage (Salvia spp) – Warm, dry (fluids), moist (oils) – Leaves and flowering tops – Aromatic

Nervous exhaustion with shaking, tremors and a sense of chronic inner trembling. Panic attacks with heart palpitations, nervous headaches and a feeling of shaking loose from the body. An excellent nervous system restorative on par with Skullcap and Milky Oats, but quite underused. Also wonderful for waking up the mind, increasing memory and awareness while staying grounded and calm. Even the smell of Sage infused oil is deeply calming and healing for me.

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Peach (Prunus persica) – Cool, moist – Bark, leaf, flower – Sweet, sour, bitter

Milder than Chokecherry, and better suited for overall stress that is felt throughout the body. For those prone to frequent adrenalin rushes, dry tissues and signs of heat. In dry, hot summer a cup of Peach leaf tea is like laying back in the river and just letting the water flow over you. Traditionally used to soften the delivery of bad news, punishment or grief. It takes the stress response down a few notches, allowing for better integration and presence. Well suited for the dryness, hot flashes and tension that often accompanies menopause.

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Evening Primrose (Oenothera spp.) – Neutral – Whole plants – Sweet, peppery

Evening Primrose – Great for food based anxiety in those recovering from eating disorders as well as depression arising from digestive problems (David Winston). I also use Evening Primrose hormonally related anxiety and depression, it’s a very uplifting and calming plant without turning your mind to mush. I also use it in general anxiety and depression accompanied by nervousness and stress. Best of all, it’s intensely nourishing to the whole body, what Matthew Wood refers to as a balsam.

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Elderflower (Sambucus nigra and spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowers – Acrid

For intense grief with accompanying depression and inability to see the magic and beauty of life. Lifts the spirits and opens the eyes to the enchanted in the everyday. I find it both relaxing and strengthening, grounding and magical. Elder’s a complicated plant with many nuanced effects, don’t shortchange it if you don’t “get it” right away.

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Milky Oats (Avena fatua) – Neutral – Milky tops – Sweet

Another great remedy for grief and heart centered pain. An excellent nervous system trophorestorative. Calming, uplifting, gentle and moistening. Damn near perfect for everything. Makes a great base for many many adaptogenic and nervine formulas.

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Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – cool, dry – leaves before flowering – sour

Cheery but relaxing. Great for children and adults who just can’t (or don’t want to) stop going going going and are wearing themselves (and everyone nearby) out. Works well for SAD for many people, and is nice for many forms of mild depression. I personally use it for panic attacks with heart palpitations where the panic is very buzzy feeling (unlike Cherry where there’s more deep tension). Lemon Balm, Rose and Milky Oats are a great combo for any number of stressful, downer kind of situations.

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Lavender (Lavendula spp.)

My favorite overall, for absolutely everyone kind of nervine. It’s warm, fuzzy and sweet and works for nearly anyone. A hug in a bottle, if you will. A flower that is able to move energy as well as calm, many people have found Lavender to be distinctly mood enhancing. For pain, stress, trauma, hyperactivity and other unpleasantness. It seems especially helpful at teaching us how to enjoy close up comforts – a hug, a big quilt, warm tea, a cozy sweater. It just enhances our ability to be sensorily aware and present. Even if that means getting really sleepy.

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Golden Smoke (Corydalis aurea)

Like a cool, still point within. It makes everything just, stop. The frenetic insanity within and without recedes, at least temporarily. It won’t fix whatever your problem is, but it’ll let you take a few steps back. Very similar to Bleeding Heart and very useful for chronic pain, especially chronic pain accompanied by tremors. Like many members of the poppy family, it can take you further out of your normal consciousness that you’re aware of, so be careful driving or anything similar when you first use this plant. I like this plant best formulated with other nervines to help balance it.

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Mexican/California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica spp.) – cool, dry – acrid

A great general nervine for nearly anything, and it blends well with most other nervine type herbs too. I specifically like it for depression and anxiety from pain. Great combined with Blisswort and Sage for deep nerve trauma. The Poppy is about taking a break from whatever is torturing you. Herbalist Mimi Kamp has a story about being really really stressed out, taking Cali. Poppy and totally forgetting what she was stressed out about. And when she did remember, she didn’t care anymore. That is the nature of the Poppies. This particular subspecies isn’t addictive and while it is comforting doesn’t give the big oblivion some of its cousins do.

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Western Mugwort/Moonwort (Artemisia ludoviciana and spp.) – Cool, dry – Flowering tops – Aromatic, bitter

For those who have lost their trust in the natural order of things, who lack a sense of deep security. It can give a calm, “mothered” feeling to those who need it most. It’s an intense plant and can give some people nightmares. A sacred plant of many cultures, it’s best to ease into a relationship with Mugwort, and to be very conscious when working with it. Not everyone experiences the nervine/spiritual effects, some people just get the digestive and liver protective elements.

~

Primary Resources and References:

The Earthwise Herbal vol 1, The Book of Herbal Wisdom, The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, personal correspondence and unpublished writings of Matthew Wood.

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, Medicinal Plants of the Canyon and Desert West, selected video and audio presentations by Michael Moore

Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest by Charles Kane

Personal correspondence and unpublished writings of jim mcdonald

Western Herbs According to Traditional Western Herbalism by Thomas Avery Garran

Combining Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine by Jeremy Ross

Personal correspondence and course work with Charles Garcia

Dec 242007
 

You can read my original Evening Primrose post here. This post was based on my initial experiencs the beginning of last June, and this current post reflects using the plant very frequently for the last few seasons.

Oenothera spp.
Energetics: Neutral to Cool. Fairly neutral in humidity, though containing both mucilage and astringent properties. Very gentle and suitable for the young, elderly and infirm or of delicate constitution.

Actions: Anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary

Affinities: Reproductive, GI, Lungs, Kidneys, Nervous

Excellent for uterine/ovarian cramping for many women, either as tea or tincture of the whole plant including roots and budding, flowering and seeding tops. Also helpful in the intestinal distress that often accompanies such cramping. Great for chronic reproductive inflammation and pelvic congestion, especially when used long term. More sedative as a tincture, more gently calming and nourishing as a tea. A prime nourishing infusion herb, restorative to the nerves, reproductive organs, GI, kidneys and lungs with its greatest affinities seemingly aligned with the reproductive tract and lungs. I use it where many would use Oatstraw, as Evening Primrose is native and local whereas I must order Oatstraw — and while they are not identical, they are similar enough in their nutritive properties for it to be a most useful exchange.

There are some older references to using Evening Primrose in glandular fullness, and I feel that it may be a gentle lymphatic along the lines of Violet, but haven’t tested this theory specifically yet, but have noticed such effects when treating other disorders.

The seeds are a traditional food for many indigenous tribes, and contain a goodly amount of essential fatty acids. You can pay a pretty penny for the extracted oil in health food stores, or you can collect the seed, crush it and add it to flax seed oil or some other EFA rich oil, keep it stored someplace cool of course, or make as needed. The leaves are usually mild, mucilaginous and slightly peppery and make a lovely addition to salads and stews. The young roots can make a tasty vegetable, depending on the species, and growing conditions, and were traditionally boiled or used like parsnips in food.

Here are the primary constituents of the common Evening Primrose, quoted from Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (2nd edition):

PRIMARY CONSTITUENTS: (O. biennis)
Lignin  Seed 160,000 Ppm
Linoleic-acid  Seed 227,798 Ppm
Quercetin  Herb; Leaf 207,000 Pp
Tannin  Herb 110,000 Ppm
Beta-linoleic-acid  Seed 66,000 Ppm
Alpha-linoleic-acid  Seed 58,000 Ppm
Glutamic-acid  Seed 28,068 Ppm
Oleic-acid  Seed 50,000 Ppm
Palmitic-acid  Seed 31,590 Ppm
Gamma-linolenic-acid  Seed 48,600 Ppm

It especially excels as a vulnerary and has been used extensively by native peoples for snakebite, spider bite, swellings, bruises, wounds and all sorts of insect stings/bites and other irritations. Modern use confirms these uses, and my own experience has found that a spit poultice of the leaf is amazing for many wounds and bites, the salve or fomentation is also very useful, and the plant in all its preparations and forms are necessary items in my practice.

As a nervine, it is potentially very effective, but not all respond to it immediately, and sometimes prolonged use is necessary to take advantage of it deepest benefits. It can be a most useful calmative, especially suited for nervous exhaustion, hormonally oriented irritability and depression and anxious, tense children. It is of an uplifting character, and useful in cases of mild to moderate depression, most noticeably so when associated with exhaustion, addiction withdrawal and chronic digestive issues. It may be thought of it as an adjunct or replacement for Milky Oats in many formulas.

I also use Evening Primrose in all of my lung tonic formulas, and consider it nearly as essential as Mullein for such applications. It has a history of use in bronchitis, asthma (especially with digestive involvement), pneumonia, whooping cough and similar lung ailments. I find it useful as a soother and anti-spasmodic for the lungs, and a wonderful addition to Mullein, Rabbit Tobacco and other gentle lung tonics, especially as it is not as drying as many common lung herbs.

Evening Primrose is a common plant from India to Europe to North America with a long history of folk use and quite gentle, yet effective, in application. I find it curious that it is not more utilized by modern herbalists, though it is gaining some popularity with David Winston’s work with it in GI based depression, and Matthew Wood’s writings about its overall tonic attributes.

I’ve included some ideas below on how Evening Primrose can be incorporated into everyday usage or professional practice.

Formulae:

GI Tonic for Dyspepsia and Hypo-acidity associated with Eating Disorders
2 Parts Evening Primrose
1 Part Mugwort
1/2 Part Rosemary

Menstrual Cramps
2 Parts Evening Primrose
2 Parts Blissowort (Skullcap)
1 Part California Poppy
1 Part Wild Peony root (optional)

Reproductive Tonic for Pelvic Fullness, Poor Circulation, Inflammation and Cramping (to be taken throughout the month, or at least for the last two weeks of the cycle, works as tincture or strong tea, though I somewhat prefer the tincture)
2 Parts Evening Primrose
1 Part Rose Hip (fresh or recently dried)
1 Part Sweet Clover

Lung Tonic for Inflammation, Dryness, Irritability and a tendency to spasmodic afflictions
2 Parts Evening Primrose
2 Parts Mullein
1 Part Elderflower
1 Part Chokecherry bark
1/2 Part Ginger root
note: 1 Part Elm or Malllow could be added or substituted for the Cherry for extra moistening effects.

Nourishing Formula for Inflammation of the Liver and associated digestive distress
2 Parts Evening Primrose
1 Part Mugwort
1 Part Rose

Nervine for Children
1 Part Evening Primrose
1 Part Catnip
1 Part Lemon Balm

Nerve Tonic for Exhaustion, Burnout or Substance Withdrawal (best as tincture combo)
1 Part Evening Primrose
1 Part Blisswort (Skullcap)
1 Part Nettles (or Nettle Seeds with specific adrenal involvement)
1/2 Part Sage

General Salve
1 Part Evening Primrose
1 Part Plantain
1 Part Elder flower or leaf

Sep 102007
 

Using Energy Moving Herbs for Connection, Presence and Groundedness

mugwortbluesky.jpgIn the last few years I’ve had various students, guests, blog-readers and the like confide in me that they’re unable to really “feel” the plants on an energetic level. That no matter how much they meditate, garden, guzzle tinctures or go to herb conferences, no matter how much they LOVE the plants, they can’t feel the effect of drop-dose tinctures, a bit of leaf or the presence of the plant.

There can be all kinds of reasons for this, but a primary one is certainly energy/chi blockage. Where someone is stuck outside of their body, or has so much ~stuff~ built up in them that they can barely taste their food or remember their kids names, let alone hear the quiet voice a weed outside their bedroom window. This stuff needs to be dealt with on its own, to be sure. Counseling, a really hot Sweat and/or good sex can all help. But what I’m talking about here is more of a physical approach with herbs, it won’t erase your phobias or put dinner on the table, but it may help you bring yourself into your body, the present moment and assist in the release of issues you’ve already been working on. Especially in issues like grief, anxiety or anger where the event that caused the feeling is long since past but we’re still in that place, reliving the occasion over and over because we’ve been unable to feel it fully, complete the cycle and let the emotions flow back out of us.

The loose category of herbs for this type of work is Chi/Qi regulators. They’re often (but not always) aromatic, tingly tasting plants like Sweet Clover, Lemon Balm, Lavender and Monarda. Bitter nervines like Skullcap and Motherwort often work as energy movers too. Part of the dynamic of these plants is that what moves one persons stuck energy may not be the right fit for the next person.

An example of this phenomenon is that for many years, Loba loved the plants. She petted them, sang to them and gave them them pet names when she could tell them apart. She loved herbal medicines but nervines simply didn’t work on her for the most part, huge doses of Valerian, Skullcap or Poppy barely affected her. And large, physiological doses were about the only thing that would work on anything in her body. She felt frustrated and deficient, locked out of a beautiful world of sensation and experience, separated from the plants. Loba has also always had difficulty staying grounded, even when she was happy and practicing familiar tasks, she’d get zoned out, lost and float right out of her body. Food and the river seemed to bring her back pretty well, but it often took time for the effect to kick in.

Then, one lovely August day, Darcey Blue came to visit, and gifted us with some of the bounty of her overflowing desert garden. Amongst the treasures was some lovingly harvested Holy Basil. I tinctured about half a pint of the fragrant, spicy plants and promptly forgot about the little jar at the back of my shelf. Sometime later, during one of my ongoing quests to find a special plant ally for Loba, I rediscovered the jar and presented her with an ounce of it.

Upon taking a few drops, she got very excited and her eyes became quite sparkly. Wow, she said, I feel SOOOO much better. And ever after, whenever she starts to come unglued, loses her focus or goes into an emotional tailspin, a few drops of Holy Basil will bring her back into her body and the present. And unexpected side effect of this was that she was suddenly able to notice subtle differences in the plants around her, able to feel their personalities quite distinctly and strangely susceptible to other herbs, especially nervines. Whereas she couldn’t even FEEL the effects of dropperfulls of Lavender, now a few drops relaxes her enough to help her sleep. And just this week, we discovered that fresh Sweet Basil tincture has a nearly identical effect to Holy Basil.

My understanding of what happened in this story, and what I’ve seen time and time again since, is that a particular plant can help push some stuck, stagnant energy out of the way so that the person can FEEL in a bigger, more intense way. Disrupted, disturbed energy can prevent us from feeling our connection to our bodies and our connection with our larger self, the earth. Moving this energy restores the natural flow and cycles of our being and allows the natural process of grounding to occur. When we’re grounded, we’re also reconnected to our senses, the plants and everything else. This allow our perception to broaden and deepen, as will our experience of life and living it.

Here’s a list of a few of my favorite energy moving herbs, and some of their subtleties. You’ll notice that many are mint family plants, who seem to have a tribal mission of energy movement in the world, and a deep desire to help us all shift, enjoy life and be in our bodies. Wake up and smell the mint!

You’ll also notice that many of the plants are those where the flowers and leaves are usually used, rather than root or bark herbs. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start when looking to your own backyard or pantry for a plant to help you unstick yourself for your current rut.

Basil – A warming, tingly plant with a feeling of joy and groundedness. jim mcdonald talks about it as a specific for brain fog, and I think this is an aspect of the plant that really helps Loba with her chronic short term memory problems and sporadic fits of logistical confusion.

Lavender – Sweet and opening, this flower especially helps move stuck heart and liver energy. Comforting, reassuring and calming. I really like this one for people who’s energy is clogged because of fear, timidity or phobias.

Rosemary – A great warming, spicy plant for moving core energy and blood that’s deeply stuck, resulting in sluggish digestion, depression and feelings of general cold and malaise.

Lemon Balm – Uplifting, sweet and restorative, Lemon Balm is great for those who need just a little more light and play in their lives. Also wonderful for long term grief.

Chamomile – For those who’s energy is stuck in a way that really blocks their solar plexus, resulting in low self esteem, no self-confidence and no tolerance for pain. Deeply ingrained fear is often present here, resulting in varying levels of hysteria, hypochondria and self-obsession.

Sweet Clover – For energy stuck in the lymph, head and belly, resulting in physical lumps and hardnesses, low immune, cramping and severe pain in some cases. Don’t know enough about this one just yet.

Skullcap – Bitter, calming and deeply moving and restorative. For energy that’s fragmented and not flowing much at all, just trapped in pockets and vibrating like mad, resulting in trembling, exhaustion, insomnia, and limited digestion. Look for chronically acute fear, people running on adrenalin and so used to running they can’t bring themselves to stop.

Motherwort – Another bitter nervine, this one with a great ability to move stuck heart and womb energy where it’s built up and is causing palpitations, cramping, as well as temperature and mood irregularities,

Mint – Ah, that shivery, cool/warm feeling is the energy and blood moving, moving, moving. Helpful for stuck belly, lung and head energy where there’s congestion, depression, fogginess and no motivation to do much of anything.

Mugwort – Bitter, fragrant and powerful, this plant works amazingly on hot-headed people with deeply stuck liver energy resulting in anger, resentment, anxiety, insomnia and fits of unreasonable rage. It’s especially helpful for people who’s insecurities are triggering their anger, as it gives a gentle sense of security and empowerment.

Sage – For people who have been through the ringer, have deep nerve trauma and are starting to fall apart. Great for stuck energy in the nerves, belly and womb as well as the core. A very restorative remedy that moves and feeds the energy at the same time.

Monarda – Euphoric and calming, this one is great for uptight people with their energy all stuck above the neckline, though it also strongly moves energy in the womb and belly areas.

Rose – For the heart and womb, first and formost. For a deep sadness, loss of self-belief and purpose, and a fear of betrayal and being hurt. Good for grief, depression, fear, or anything else rooted in closing the energy off deeply, and holding it within.

Yarrow – Seems to move everything, a nice, tingly push for the whole system that especially helps regulate the heart, liver and womb energy.

May 042007
 

This is a shortened version of my newest piece on my very favorite herb and namesake, enjoy!

Rosa spp.

Energetics
: cold/dry

Primary Actions
: astringent, blood moving (emmenagogue), refrigerant, aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory,

Organ Systems
: immune, digestive, reproductive, heart/circulatory, nervous

Parts used
: every little bit, even the thorns

Common names
: Sweetbriar, Shatapatri, Yeu ji hua, Briar Rose and many more

In the driest whitest stretch of pain’s infinite desert, I lost my sanity and found this rose. — Rumi

Growing up, I scorned garden Roses for weedier, wild plants. Though I loved all things green, I had a hard time understanding the common emphasis on the dandified and often weak hybrid flowers that populated gardens, lawns and windowsills. Never having been pampered myself, I didn’t have any use for domesticated and over-fertilized prima donnas. Instead, I fancied berry brambles and Nettles — rampant and untameable children that overtook gardens and yards, climbing fences and walls as they spread through waste areas and forgotten lots. As I erupted into adolescence as an angry runaway from an abusive home, I could identify with their tenacity and fierce will to not just survive but thrive in even the poorest soil.

I was surprised then, by the wildness and ferocity of the first Wild Roses I met along the bank of a now forgotten river. The thorns snagged the hem of my long frayed skirt and held tight. I turned to untangle myself from them and found myself faced with obscenely pink petals unfurling in the morning sun, and the alluring scent of something both earthy and etheric, surely a creature apart from the nearly scentless and carefully made up faces of the tea roses my mother grew. As I struggled to unwrap my skirt from the thousands of spines, I was repeatedly poked and cut by the needle fine thorns that guarded the sweet smelling flowers, until my own blood streaked across the flowers. The intensity and insistence of the plant amazed me, though I still held onto a deep resistance against America’s symbol of love, femininity and romance.

The moment I arrived in New Mexico, with its red volcanic rock faces and lush green river banks, I knew I was home. Here in the Gila, Wild Roses grow in thick protective hedges along the river… immediately, I loved their needle sharp thorns combined with the delicate vulnerability. As an exotic dancer from the streets turned canyon wild child, I could relate, though I didn’t feel nearly as vulnerable as the slowly unfolding flowers looked. Their long red canes shimmer come springtime, and they are one of the first woody plants to leaf out, providing a welcome splash of vibrant green.

There are as many varieties of Rose as there are shades of green, and every kind holds some profound therapeutic value. My favorite variety is the New Mexico Wild Rose (R. neomexicana), the very same beauty that graces the river banks and cliff bottoms of this wild canyon sanctuary deep in the heart of the Gila. Though her scent is subtler than some of her middle eastern sisters, I find her medicinal values to be myriad and powerful. In general, any strongly scented, old-fashioned or wild Rose can be used medicinally, and the rest are still strong medicine through their gentle presence and lovely appearance. I prefer my Roses complete with thorns, and avoid modern hybrids with little or no thorns, feeling that this takes away from the special balance of fierceness and vulnerability the Rose embodies.

Rose is a broadly acting and gentle yet effective medicine that is both nourishing and enlivening. The beautiful flower is one of my primary allies and finds its way into almost every formula I create. I have experienced first hand the power this plant has on mind, body and spirit and can only hope to pass on a fraction of that those I teach and work with.

The rose was not searching for darkness or science:
borderline of flesh and dream,
it was searching for something else.
-Lorca

Rose hips are best known for their Vitamin C content, and are indeed a widely available and abundant source of this necessary substance. Rose hips are also rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, Niacin, Bioflavanoids, K, and E as well as polyphenols and heart healthy pectin. And even the Rose petals are rich in polyphenols, B vitamins and bioflavanoids.

Rose petals also contain as much or more antioxidants as green tea, making them a wonderfully healing and caffeine free beverage. Some people find the taste of Rose petals too perfume like, but I have found that it depends largely on the species used. My favorite Rose of commerce to use for tea is, hands down, R. centifolia, it’s lovely, spirited and sweet without the strong aftertaste of some other species such as R. gallica.

Its rich nutrition makes the Rose, and especially the hip, a fine blood tonic for those experiencing fatigue, anxiety, vertigo, pallor, dry skin and hair and other signs of blood deficiency. If the individual is also experiencing feelings of coldness, I recommend adding warming blood tonics such as blackstrap molasses or Dang Gui.

The entire plant is incredibly anti-inflammatory, Scandinavian studies show that Rose hips and seeds significantly reduced the need for painkillers in individuals suffering from osteoarthritis. I have found all parts of the rose to be strongly anti-inflammatory, and have used a liniment of rose petals for traumatic injuries, sore muscles and chronic muscoskeletal pain in individuals that fit the Pitta type profile Rose is most useful for. I’ve had remarkable success treating dislocated discs with accompanying swelling, stiffness and pain with topical applications of Rose petal liniment and infusion. Just this liniment, with no other treatment, recently resolved a dislocated disc with severe pain, swelling, tension and loss of movement. It’s also been effective in less serious cases typified by inflammation and pain.

Though primarily a medicine for overheated Pitta types, it can be helpful (or at least pleasurable) for just about anyone, and is easily warmed up with a bit of ginger or cinnamon for colder individuals. I find it calming and wonderful for keeping my red-headed temper mellowed out.

Rose can effectively balance hyperimmune disorders (think Pitta) where the body overreacts to every perceived threat. It also generally enhances immune function through its cooling, cleansing effect. I use Rose as a standard remedy for any cold or flu type illness, the hip is traditional for this but I often use both hip and petal in my preparations. Many Native tribes were known to use the root or bark in the treatment of cold and flu, and while I haven’t yet tried this, I imagine it will be at least as effective as the petal or hip. I make Rose petal pastilles with honey for sore or inflamed throats. Rose infused honey can be used as a syrup for the same symptoms. And an infusion of petal and leaf will also help symptomatically with sinus congestion, runny nose or damp heat in the lungs.

Rose is classified in most traditional medicine as a blood mover, with a special affinity for the reproductive system. I’ve found it to be very useful in treating general pelvic congestion resulting in scanty menses, cramps, water retention, cysts and mood swings. Rich in the building blocks of hormones, Rose helps nourish the endocrine system through its provision of these basic hormonal elements. An age old aphrodisiac, stirring up both blood and libido as well as opening up the heart, it has a history of treating sexual dysfunction such as impotence and frigidity.

Partially due to these same blood moving decongestant properties, Rose is also strengthening and healing to the heart and circulatory system. It is especially indicated in high blood pressure and/or poor circulation in individuals with Pitta symptoms such as inflammation, constipation, headaches, feverishness, red face, heart palpitations and hot flashes. Note that several of these symptoms can also be caused by a congested or inflamed liver, which Rose also serves to relax and cool.

That same uptight, overworked and congested liver can also cause any number of digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, gastric inflammation, IBS, hyperacidity and conversely, food fermenting in the stomach from sluggish digestion (usually rooted in stagnant liver Qi). Rose can help these symptoms through addressing the liver problem at the root, as well as cooling, healing and protecting the gut lining, assisting the digestive process to help things move a bit better and by generally nourishing the mucosa as well as the intestinal bacteria. I have personally found Rose petal infusions to be a very effective long term treatment for IBS with signs of internal heat and inflammation (diarrhea, food allergies, nausea, burning/churning stomach, red, cracked tongue with anxiety and restlessness).

Traditionally considered one of the finest wound medicines in North America, Rose is no longer a common remedy for wounds and injuries. In modern use, it often seems to be relegated to the ranks of simple astringents. It certainly does make a fine smelling astringent, but has a plethora of other properties adding to its wonderful wound healing abilities. The whole plant, but especially the root, has pain relieving properties when used externally, and is also a very good antibacterial agent for treating nearly any kind of infection, inside or out, including UTIs, yeast and vaginal infections. Indigenous peoples use the hips for severe infections externally, making a mash of the hips and using as a poultice. An acquaintance from Alaska recently told me a story of her mother using rose hips alone to successfully treat a severe wound on a dog. I’ve since used rose hip poultices on several infected wounds with great results.

Rose oil can be used externally for menstrual cramps and Canadian herbalist Terry Willard recommends Rose petal infused wine for uterine cramps and labor pains. I find that Rose works best internally for cramps when both hip and petal are used and are appropriately combined other herbs such as Mugwort or Peony root.

Diluted Rose petal vinegar is amazing for sunburns, clearing the heat from the skin and relieving a great percentag of the pain. A universal remedy for sore, inflamed eyes and even cataracts. Petals are most often used, but many indigenous tribes used the roots. Rose leaf spit poultices are great for bug bites and cuts and scratches, Rose petals will work too, but it’s usually easier to get a leaf most times of the year. Gentle enough for babies, many cultures have used Rose petal infusion for teething, fussiness and diarrhea in infants. I frequently give our daughter, Rhiannon, Rose glycerite when she gets into a overheated, hyperactive and irritable state that often results in a nervous stomach and diarrhea. I find that it helps to cool and calm her, and also helps settle her belly.

Also appropriate for delicate areas other herbs might irritate, finely ground petals or leaves can be used as a powder for rashes, itchy or inflamed areas and wounds anywhere on the body. A traditional recipe of the Mesquakies involves boiling down Rosehips to make a paste to be used for itching anywhere on the body, including hemorrhoids. All parts of the plant will help the itching and pain of red, inflamed eczema, contact dermatitis, hives, poison ivy etc., a diluted vinegar of Rose petals and Mugwort is my potion of choice for such cases.

Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.
— James Oppenheim, “Bread and Roses”

While the healing power of the Rose is pervasive in how it touches nearly every part of a person, perhaps the most remarkable aspects of this flower are found in its ability to affect the heart and spirit. Long praised for its anti-depressant qualities and ability to open the heart, it has been used across the world to raise the spirits and heal broken hearts. An amazingly uplifting herb, I often use it as an antidepressant/antianxiety agent, especially for those who have been the victim of violence, sexual abuse or betrayal as well as anyone who can use more self-love. It has a profound opening effect on the heart and on sexuality, and is a deeply nourishing tonic for the nerves.

In my own time spent with this plant, taking in both her body as well as spending time with her spirit, I have found a great healing. She has the remarkable ability to allow vulnerability while reinforcing personal empowerment and freedom. This plant teaches a deep self love and knowledge that results in nourishment and wholeness. While the term rose colored glasses often applies to seeing the world in an unrealistically positive light, what Rose really gives us is the ability to see the earth and ourselves in all of its true and inherent beauty.

My good friend and talented herbalist Ananda Wilson says she finds Rose to help “when I get neurotic about things, or mysteriously desperate feeling”. I agree with her findings, and have used it for very similar indications, especially when those neurotic feelings are hormonal or heart centered. Minnesota herbalist Matt Wood believes that it turns down excitement in the limbic centers which control both heat and passion. I consider it to be an emotional modulator, balancing out both intense feelings and intense apathy, and provides a solid foundation from which to sense and connect to the world we are a part of.

Rose is very calming and balancing, assisting us in finding a ground level state from which we can access our real emotions rather than just react. In this way it can help those suffering from anxiety, anger, insecurity, grief and depression. It can be used as a baseline in any nerve strengthening, emotionally balancing formula including more specific herbs for the exact person and situation.

My favorite formula for recovering from a crying jag or traumatic experience is Sage and Rose, either externally as a scented oil or internally as a tincture, infusion or elixir. You don’t need too much Sage for this, just enough to give a grounding base for the Rose to ride on. Skullcap is a nice addition to this in cases where insomnia or deep muscle tension is an issue.

Throughout my experiences in the wilderness while rediscovering my own lost little girl, the Rose has played an important role in revealing my true self. She’s comforted me in my tears, cheered my sad moments and instructed me in being fiercely free while remaining deeply vulnerable and open to love and beauty. When overwhelmed by grief or stress, I anoint myself with Rose oil or cream, and drink an elixir of Rose petal, hip and leaf. Just these two small acts help me reconnect to my spirit and reaffirm my commitment to self nourishment. This is an important way for me to maintain personal balance after years of self imposed denigration and abuse. In the Rose, I have found my own nature and I have learned to deeply love her.

As Spring emerges in my third year here in the Sweet Medicine Canyon, the Roses start to swell with promising buds, and in a month, new pink blossoms will begin to open. Their petals will unfold, slowly and deliberately, in the warm May sun, stretching past barriers and known limitations to soar skyward. As I carefully gather petals and leaves from their graceful forms, I will feel my own heart continue to open, slowly and deliberately, stretching towards the warmth and great love of this beautiful life.

Resources/Bibliography
The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism by Matthew Wood

The Complete Floral Healer by Anne McIntyre

Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rocky Mountains and Neighbouring Territories by Terry Willard

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore

The Yoga of Herbs by David Frawley and Vasant Lad
Ananda Wilson – Personal Correspondence