Tree Medicine: Linden

(Tilia tomentosa, Tilia cordata, T. platyphyllos, T. europea. T. americana)

Aka Lime Blossom, Lime Tree, Basswood, Tilleul

 

These great trees create shade and spread calm on city streets where I live (in Toronto), and for the longest time, I had no idea of the medicine they offered.

I didn’t even know their name.

This knowledge gap is illustrative of the disconnection that plagues us here in the cities. The medicine we need is so often right beside us, but lacking an introduction, we have no idea. By sharing what I have learned thus far, I am aiming to change this. My hope is that you will be inspired to meet some of your plant neighbors, too, and spread the healing potential by sharing what you have learned with those in your circles.

 

Lovely Linden

(with thanks to herbalist Rosalee de la Foret for the alliteration that fits so perfectly)

 

Parts Used: Flowers (and bracts)

 

Form of Use: Tea (steep covered to retain medicinal volatile oils), Tincture, Bath

 

Actions: diaphoretic, antispasmodic, hypotensive, nervine sedative, digestive, demulcent, astringent, pectoral, antioxidant

 

Indications: cold or ‘flu with fever, nervous tension, nervous headache, high blood pressure (usually in combo with other herbs), insomnia (especially in kids), some types of PMS or painful periods

 

In France, linden tea a popular drink in the evenings, served in people’s homes as well as at five-star restaurants. The majestic tree it has long been part of the herbal medicine chest in both Europe and North America. And it turns out that Linden (Tilia spp) grows widely on both continents. Linden is a common choice for planting along city streets, and graces many a park.

 

When Linden blossoms in late June or early July, you can you can find the trees by their sweet scent, as well as by their distinctive lopsided heart-shaped leaf, with flowers attached to what looks like half of a maple key.

 

With a low-hanging branch, permission, confirmation of identity, and thanks to the tree, you may harvest the flowers for use in your household. I encourage you to expand your tea repertoire and get to know this #backyardmedicine this season! (If Linden doesn’t grow near you, you may purchase it from Mountain Rose Herbs or your local herbalist).

 

Harvest on a clear day, and spread flowers to dry on a clean screen or sheet, turning daily. Store in a sealable glass jar.

 

A cup of flowers to uplift you

Preparing and drinking tea is a ritual that many people enjoy. It is not an obligation, or a responsibility. It is a pause, it is nourishment, it is – in some cases – flowers in a cup. And yet, herbal teas – even the gentlest and safest of them, such as linden – can be powerful medicine.

 

 

 

Linden helps to cool and calm

This tree medicine is used to help bring sleep to anxious children (and adults), and to gently lower blood pressure. Linden is also used to decrease fevers during ‘flu. In a study at a Chicago hospital, children on bed rest who received Tilia (along with aspirin, if needed) recovered more quickly, and had fewer cases of ear infections, than children who received antibiotics alone, or antibiotics with Tilia. Note that Aspirin is no longer recommended for children – this study is older.

 

The herb is a great ally in times of stress. Linden calms the nervous system, soothing the nerves for sleep, relieving a tension headache, or easing an upset stomach. The herb is also known to ease menstrual cramps. Further, it is considered a heart medicine, where it protects the heart through its antioxidant actions and ability to dilate & heal blood vessels.

 

Bathe in Flowers

For the ultimate in nourishing self-care, treat yourself to a linden blossom bath:

Option A:

  • Place a few cupfuls of linden blossoms in a piece of muslin or cheesecloth, tied to keep the herbs from escaping into the bath water. Add to bath and fill with hot water.  Steep, enjoy.

Option B:

  • Brew a very strong pot of linden tea, strain, add to bath.

 

 

Safety

Safe for children, safe in pregnancy & during breast feeding, safe for long term use. Consult your naturopathic physician for information on use with your specific health concerns.

References & Further Reading:

Bruton-Seal, Julie & Seal, Matthew. Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: SkyHorse Publishing. 2009.

 

Conway, Peter. Tree Medicine: A comprehensive guide to the healing power of over 170 trees. London, UK: Judy Piatkus Publishers Limited. 2001

 

Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science & Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2003.

 

Mase, Guido. The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter and Tonic Plants. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2013.

 

http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2124007#hn-2124007-uses

 

http://vitalitymagazine.com/article/the-linden-tree/268 8900

 

http://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2011/09/lovely-linden.html

 

7 Naturopathic Tips For Happy Digestion

1)    Identify and eliminate food triggers

Food allergies and sensitivities commonly cause heartburn, stomach pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea (and many non-digestive symptoms, including effects on skin, mood, and joints, too).

I offer IgG food sensitivity testing in order to speed up the process, take out the guesswork and the human experimental error, and help my clients determine what is the most nourishing diet for them.

Why wouldn’t you want to know what works and what doesn’t for YOUR digestion?

 

2)    Manage stress 

Since the gut is intricately connected to the nervous system, AND has a nervous system of its very own, stress matters. How you feel about your workload is intricately connected to how smoothly your digestion is operating. In fact, if we need to be in a parasympathetic state (the so-called “rest and digest” state) in order to optimally process, absorb and break down our food. The sympathetic state (aka “fight or flight”) is designed to help us escape threats, and prioritizes physiological supports for this. When you are stressed, blood supply is directed to your muscles, away from your digestive tract, to help you move faster. Additionally, digestive enzyme production slows, and peristalsis, the rhythmic contractions in your intestines that help food break down and move along, is also affected.

To simplify: When you are stressed you can’t digest

So, managing stress matters. This may look like setting boundaries with family members re: availability to take care of things. It may involve committing to leaving work on time in order to fit in a workout and prepare a meal. It may be developing a consistent stillness practice. And it may be getting together with a good friend who “gets” you.

 

3)    How you eat (vs what you eat)

Mindful eating.

Taking time to sit down, chew, and ENJOY the food you are consuming will make it much easier to digest. Truly.

Many of us are guilty of eating standing at the kitchen counter, or eating while sitting at our desks, working, or even while commuting from A to B. Ideally, take a conscious break to eat. And sit down. If you are having a treat, savor it. Regret, guilt, and self-recrimination not only feel bad emotionally, but can literally give you a stomach ache.

Finally, note that most people don’t do well with a large meal close to bedtime, particularly those who get heartburn.

 

4)    Exercise

Moving your body helps to regulate your digestion and ensure that your bowels move regularly, too. Enough said.

 

5)    Herbal Support: Soothing and Carminative Teas

Herbs to consider for tea include chamomile, peppermint, meadowsweet, marshmallow root, lemon balm, licorice, ginger, and others.

Note: herbs are best matched to a person’s whole constitution. For someone like me, who tends to be cold and have poor circulation, ginger is an excellent digestive support, with its warming and moving action, whereas for someone who runs hot, ginger could cause a sensation of burning in the gut. For them, peppermint’s cooling carminative capacity would be a better choice. Licorice is soothing and in fact healing for ulcers, but is contraindicated in whole form when blood pressure is elevated. Consult with an herbalist or naturopathic physician to get the right combo for you.

 

6)    Herbal Support: Bitters

“Bitters” refers to any combination of bitter-tasting herbs. Around the world, bitters have been used as digestives or aperitifs, and in many places they still are. Some examples of herbs used as bitters include Dandelion, Gentian, Angelica, Yellow Dock, Yarrow, Centaury, Wormwood, Mugwort and more. One commercially available blend of bitter is Angostura.

Note that the bitter herb(s) must bind to taste receptors on the tongue to be effective. So, no, you can’t take them in a pill and avoid the bitter flavor. Sorry ! 🙂

Bring back the bitters! Bitters for better digestion!

Bitters stimulate the vagus nerve, and the vagus nerve controls the entire digestive tract. Thus, bitters increase salivation, increase peristalsis, increase digestive enzyme production in the pancreas, enhance production of bile for fat digestion, and relieve symptoms of heartburn, gastritis and dyspepsia. Bitters can address both diarrhea and constipation, and through their digestive-enhancing capacity, relieve intestinal pain.

Interestingly, people consume fewer calories when they have bitters before a meal. Bitters help regulate appetite and fullness.

Bitters also improve liver function and enhance detoxification capacity, including reducing allergy symptoms and asthma. Finally, bitters help balance blood sugar.

I regularly use bitters in my clinical practice to help enhance digestion from top to bottom. Sometimes I recommend an existing combination product, but more often I choose 1-3 herbs that best fit for that person’s whole picture.

NB: If you have an ulcer, consult with your ND or Herbalist before using bitters.

 

7)    Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria. They are beneficial for our immune system (research finds lower incidence of colds and flus, and faster recovery time, recovery from infection), for our digestion (research supports use for IBS symptoms, crohns, colitis, gastritis), for mood (helpful for decreasing mood lability, and associated with less anxiety and depression), for skin (acne, eczema, and more). Probiotics are found in naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kosher-style pickled cucumbers, yogurt, kefir, and miso. While regularly eating fermented foods is great for maintaining healthy digestion, most of us are far from in balance with respect to our gut bacteria, and we need higher doses of probiotics to regain this healthy flora mix. Professional quality probiotic supplements are invaluable in healing the gut and occasionally in managing symptoms while healing progresses.

What is St John’s Wort good for?

St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Mahalia Freed, ND

Hypericum

For many years, St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been a top selling plant in the marketplace for depression. Long an important herb in European medicine, settlers brought it with them to North America and Australia, and it can now be found in sunny, dry fields around the world. It is well studied, and meta-analysis finds the herb more effective than SSRIs or placebo in treating mild-to-moderate depression. Hypericum can be an excellent herb for depression, and I regularly incorporate it in my treatment plans for people seeking mood support. But, look at the incomplete list of causes of depression, above. St John’s Wort (or St Joan’s Wort, as herbalist Susun Weed calls it) is not for all depressions. It is for healing.

Viewing at St John’s Wort as an antidepressant limits the power of the herb to what can be understood from an allopathic linear paradigm. An allopathic paradigm question is, what herb can act as an SSRI? But, herbs are not substitutes for drugs. Plants are living medicines, crossing body systems to heal people, rather than addressing diagnoses. St John’s Wort is no exception, and looking at the history of its use along with modern phytotherapeutic trials reveals the breadth of its role in healing.

This herb has long been used in topical applications for wound healing, and it is great for this. Think of it for scrapes, and think of it for healing the perineum post-partum. It is also antiviral against herpes, shingles, and even against HIV. It is famous in homeopathic  form for its efficacy in addressing nerve pain, whether from dental surgery or due to a skeletal issue like disc compression. Hypericum has been studied for PMS, and found more effective than placebo for physical and behavioral PMS symptoms. In clinical trial, it is also effective for menopausal symptoms in combination with Black Cohosh (another misunderstood herb!).

So, what is St John’s Wort for?
For healing.

Who is St John’s Wort for?

Since herbs treat people, this is a question with a juicier answer. Hypericum is for someone with Type A blood more than Type O blood. For someone who needs more sunshine (eg depression in winter), for frayed nerves. For a “weak” stomach, for normalizing stomach acid whether too high or too low, for liver support, for disinfecting and healing wounds (including deep wounds), for nerve damage, for third chakra issues, for emotions influencing the bladder, for radiation burns.

Who Shouldn’t Take St John’s Wort?

Anyone taking any prescription medication, including oral contraceptives, should consult with their herbalist or naturopathic doctor. St John’s Wort is metabolized through the liver and interferes with/decreases the effectiveness of many drugs. If taken at the same time as oral contraceptives, St. John’s Wort can diminish their effectiveness. i.e., this could – and does – lead to an unexpected pregnancy. So please ask your herbally-trained health care provider!

Additional Effects (Cautions):

Cows who graze excessively on Hypericum are known to get sunburns. This is almost never seen in people, as we do not consume it as a dietary staple.

Conversely, St John’s Wort oil is in fact an excellent sunscreen when applied topically (Per Susun Weed).

Selected Sources:

·      Bruton-Seal, Julie and Seal, Matthew. Backyard Medicine: Harvest & Make Your Own Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: SkyHorse Publishing. 2009.
·      Kaminski, Patricia & Katz, Richard. Flower Essence Repertory. Nevada City, CA: Flower Essence Society. 2004.
·      Weed, Susun. Lecture at the Association of Perinatal Naturopathic Doctors annual conference. Toronto: Oct. 13, 2012.
·      Wood, Matthew. Earthwise Herbal. A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. 2008.
·      Wood, Matthew. Herbal First Aide. Accessed online at http://www.woodherbs.com/Indispensable.html. July 7, 2013.

urban herbalism: nettle joy

Mahalia Freed, ND

I live in the city.

10 minutes by public transit and I am in the downtown core. There is a highway very close to my house. And also, there are green spaces, and there are wild plants. Medicinal, weedy, wild plants. The blessing of using medicine from the earth, the beauty of it, is that the medicines we need are very often right in our (metaphorical) backyards.

Today I harvested wild nettles. I truly love nettles. They are not only a medicine I prescribe often – for everything from seasonal allergies to low iron – but they are delicious and nutritious as food. Allergic to spring pollens? Nettle tea to the rescue! Pregnant? Nourish with nettles! Gathering this particular weed, then, brings me great joy.

Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle)

 

By their sting, nettles teach us to be fully present, fully aware of our bodies in space. If your mind wanders, and your shirtsleeve doesn’t entirely cover your forearm, nettle will bring you back with a sting that lasts and lasts. I was reminded. Thank you, nettle. If you are thinking about gathering nettles yourself: wear long sleeves, long pants, and gardening gloves, and make sure to pull the gloves up over your sleeves!

 

Because I was harvesting near home in a well-used public park, I happily engaged in quite a bit of impromptu herbal education. I answered people’s friendly queries as to why I was choosing to pick a stinging weed with musings on potential recipes I could choose for dinner, and I expanded on some of nettle’s uses in addressing inflammation, seasonal allergies, pregnancy, and more. I learned from one woman passing by that she grew up eating nettles in India (different species, same idea), and another couple paused their workout to tell me about a raw nettle eating competition in England (don’t do it. Remember, it stings!)

 

transporting the urban nettle harvest

 

Wildcrafting guidelines teach that one should never harvest things that are endangered or rare in the area in question. Pick plants that grow abundantly, and then take no more than 30% of the stand in that place. But please, harvest only what you will use. Depending on the plant, a little may go a long way. Lucky for me and the other urban harvesters, nettle is prolific. I harvested nearly the maximum I could fit in my bike’s panniers, which in this patch was maybe 2%.

 

 

Drying Nettle

A Wildcrafting ND’s Office

While in the past I have preferred to dry herbs spread out on a screen, our current space doesn’t allow for this. Hanging herbs in bunches is another easy, reliable way to dry them in any (indoor, ventilated) space. I strung some twine across the bay window in my treatment room, and tied bunches of 5-9 stalks across it. When that row was full, I moved onto the hallway.

 

Prep Tip

Gather any loose leaves and put them aside for dinner. If the loose leaves don’t add up to enough for your pesto or soup or frittata or sauté plans, keep some stalks aside. Wearing your gloves (you always wear gloves when handling raw nettles!), grasp the stalk near the top and strip off the leaves from top to bottom. They should come off easily this way. Strip as many stalks as you & your crisper drawer need. If you aren’t using them all right away, store fresh nettles in the fridge in a plastic bag, like most produce.

 

Wild Nettle Pesto with Rice Linguini

Ingredients

  • ~5 cups fresh raw nettles
  • 2-4 cloves raw garlic, finely chopped or pressed (4 was intensely garlicky)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup walnuts or pine nuts (or sunflower seeds or almonds)
  • 1 tsp celtic sea salt, or to taste
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • Pasta of choice (I used organic brown rice “linguini-style” noodles, and made enough for two generous servings of pasta. We have pesto leftover)

 

Preparation

Nettle Pesto

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Wearing gloves, add your nettles to the water to blanch them. Simmer 1-3 minutes, then remove and drain off excess water. Reserve the nettle-blanching water to cook the pasta. Add pasta to the boiling water. While pasta is cooking, roughly chop your squeezed out nettles and measure them. You should have about 2 cups now. If not, adjust other ingredients as needed. Dump nettles into a food processor along with pressed garlic, olive oil, sea salt and nuts/seeds. Process until smooth-ish. Add lemon juice and process again. Taste it. Isn’t it delicious? Adjust seasonings as desired. I ran out of olive oil so I increased the nuts, and then had to add salt to balance out the bitterness in the walnuts. Delicious results, though!

 

Dump cooked, drained pasta into a big bowl, and toss with pesto to generously coat. Add more pesto. People never use enough pesto.

Top with whatever you fancy and have on hand.

Nettle Pesto Linguini with Grilled Chicken & Sun-dried Tomatoes

 

My choice today: chopped leftover grilled organic chicken breast and sliced sundried tomatoes. Would also work with other leftover meat, grilled veggies, marinated tofu.

 

I gathered weeds instead of going grocery shopping today, and I had a delightful day. I highly recommend taking a week-day afternoon off from your to-do list, and getting to know a local weed. And your neighbours 🙂

 

Flexible Strength: Willow Medicine

Salix spp

Willow is a distinctive tree that many people recognize, and many more are drawn to.

Willow’s story offers many examples of the power of tree medicines, and the difference between living plant medicines and pharmaceuticals or isolated extracts.

There are over 400 species of Willow, growing all through the Northern Hemisphere. In botanical medicine, White Willow (Salix alba) is most commonly referenced, although other species like Black Willow (Salix nigra) and Crack Willow (Salix fragilis) can be used interchangeably in many cases.

Willow has a long history of medicinal use. Indeed, I first learned about willow at age 12, when I did a science fair project on what was then referred to as “alternative medicine”. Willow was – for me – a gateway plant to the world of plant medicines. Perhaps it has played this role for you as well, or perhaps it still may!

Experience & History
There is a calm elegance to willows. Their comforting, flowing grace draws us to sit beneath them and share their ease. They prefer damp areas, often growing along river banks or lakes’ edges. The notion of flow is reflected in their form and in the water beside them. Willow’s historical use for rheumatism, a condition worse with dampness, mirrors its habitat of choice as well as its chemical action.

The flexible branches have long been used in making baskets, as well as wicker furniture. Elsewhere, willow wood is used for clogs, and for cricket bats.

Phytochemistry
Willow bark contains salicin, the precursor to salicylic acid. When we ingest willow tea or tincture, we convert salicin to salicylic acid in out digestive tract. From salicylic acid you can manufacture acetyl salicylic acid, or ASA, the active ingredient in Aspirin. Willow bark is in fact one of the plants from which Aspirin was originally made! It follows, then that like ASA, salicin has an anti-inflammatory effect in our body, making willow an excellent medicine for muscular and joint pains, fever pains, and gout.

Flower Essence
Willow flower essence helps us to find flexible strength. The essence is used for stiffness in body and mind, helping to address rigidity in thinking as well as in our muscles or joints. Willow helps people to let go, to accept, to forgive, to adapt. It addresses feelings of resentment or victimization. It supports the our feminine – or yin – nature.
From the FES flower essence repertory,
“Willow restores a more “spring-like” disposition, helping the soul to respond with greater resilience and inward mobility to challenges and problems. In this way, the Self takes more responsibility for its condition, and learns to flow more gently and graciously with rather than against the flow of life.”

Actions
Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antipyretic

Indications
Arthritis, rheumatism, low back pain & other general muscular aches and pains, period pain, gout, fever, diarrhea

Preparation
Tincture or decoction of bark.

Cautions
Plants are not like drugs, and here is another example. You cannot use willow bark as a substitute for Aspirin if you are taking the drug for blood thinning. Willow does not thin the blood. And while Aspirin is notorious for causing stomach side effects (it increases ulceration & bleeding in the gut), white willow does not.

References:
Conway, Peter. Tree Medicine: A Comprehensive Guide to the Healing Power of Over 170 Trees. London, UK: Judy Piatkus Ltd. 2001.
Godfrey, Anthony & Saunders, Paul (with Kerry Barlow, Matt Gowan, Cyndi Gilbert, Rebecca Blok & Mahalia Freed). Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine. Volume 1: Botanical Medicine Monographs. Toronto, ON: CCNM Press. 2012.
Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science & Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press. 2003.
Kaminski, Patricia & Katz, Richard. Flower Essence Repertory. Nevada City, CA: Flower Essence Society. 1986/2004.

Hawthorn: Heart Healing from Physical to Spiritual

by Dr Mahalia Freed, ND

Crateagus oxycantha, flower

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is medicine for the heart on all levels. Indigenous to countries across the northern hemisphere, this small thorny tree has a long-recorded history of medicinal use in both Europe and China, as well as in North America. Poetically – and significantly – Hawthorn is a member of the Rose family.

Hawthorn’s place as heart medicine was noted by Greek physician, Dioscorides, in the first Century AD. Medical herbal research has validated this use, finding hawthorn to be effective for increasing the strength of heart contractions, increasing blood flow to the heart, decreasing blood lipids (ie decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides) and modulating blood pressure (AltMedReview, 2010). A Cochrane review of trials on hawthorn for chronic or congestive heart failure found that Crataegus extract decreased fatigue and shortness of breath and improved exercise tolerance relative to placebo. And while the traditional context is different, the Traditional Chinese Medicine use of Hawthorne for fat or rich meal digestion highlights the ability of Haw/berry antioxidants to prevent cholesterol deposits from oxidizing.

Additionally, hawthorn is used in the form of an energy medicine for the heart.
Continue reading

Shiitakes & Greens Sauté

This quick, simple dish is flavourful, and deeply nourishing.

If you have shied away from Shiitake mushrooms in the past, now is a chance to enjoy them. Their rich flavor provides an ideal counterpoint to the bitter freshness of Dandelions. Shiitakes are immune-enhancing and antiviral. For more about Dandelions, see http://www.drmahaliafreed.com/weeds-as-nourishing-spring-food-dandelion-greens/ .

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb or so of fresh Shiitake mushrooms, sliced (can use dried – soak in just-boiled water first)
  • 1 large bunch dandelion greens, washed and chopped (or substitute kale or collard greens)
  • 1 large onion or 2 small onions, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Sauté onions, garlic and ginger in oil, adding water as needed, until onions are very soft. Add salt, shiitakes, with more water if needed, and let simmer at medium heat, covered, for about 8 minutes. Add dandelion greens/kale/collards and more water if needed, cover, and continue saute/simmering until greens are cooked (about 5 min).

Weeds as Nourishing Spring Food: Dandelion Greens

by Dr. Mahalia Freed, ND

Dandelions, ubiquitous indicators of warmer weather, are perfectly positioned to support our health – especially our livers – through the transition to spring.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The greens are deeply nourishing. Rich in vitamins and minerals including beta-carotene, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and potassium, dandelion greens have an alkalinizing effect on the body. These much-maligned weeds are safely diuretic, and contain nutrients that specifically support detoxification pathways via the kidneys and the liver. Additionally, their bitter flavor stimulates digestive function, from the stomach down to the intestines, including stimulating bile production in the liver. For those of you thinking of a spring cleanse, guess what? Dandelion is truly a detoxifier, as enhancing bile production allows for enhanced elimination of wastes from the body.

Find dandelion greens at your local supermarket, or harvest them from any chemical-free patch of grass. If harvesting, note that they get more bitter as the season goes on.

Holly & The Holidays

Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is one of those plants classically associated with Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere. Gorgeous and festive with its shiny green and red, Holly is more than just decoration. While it isn’t common in herbal medicine materia medica, it is one of the original flower remedies used and researched by Dr. Edward Bach.

What is a flower remedy? Similar to homeopathy, flower essences are created using a specific technique that extracts not the physical constituents but the energetic essence of the plant. Flower essences are most often prescribed for emotional or spiritual states, rather than physical concerns. For example, Rescue Remedy is a popular retail formula for anxiety and shock. Essences may be prescribed to help with confidence, self esteem, stress, depression, or even for smoking cessation.

In the spirit of holiday healing, here is some information about Holly as a flower essence (from the Flower Essence Repertory, 2004 Edition). Isn’t it interesting, how the medicine we need is so often right near us?

Holly essence nourishes the heart, and is used to cultivate loving and inclusive gestures to others, ability to express gratitude to others, and compassion. Holly helps to broaden our sense of self to one that knows that we are connected, that “love is an infinite resource that is available to all.[…]When we feel separate from others we can take no joy or compassionate interest in their affairs; instead our isolation is compounded into negative states of jealousy, envy, suspicion or anger”. Holly is about community, and joy, and the joy of shared love. Holly “restores the soul’s ability to feel unity and wholeness”.

Sound like a good addition to your holiday gatherings? I think so. Thank you Holly, for your festive spirit (pun intended)!

Backyard Medicine: Calendula officinalis

Calendula is still blossoming here in Toronto right now, donating sunshine to the cold grey rain of late November. Every time I walk by some, it induces a grateful smile. What a beautiful reminder of the abundant medicine accessible to us, even as winter rolls in!

Calendula

Uses

This is another herb that is popular for good reason: used externally in creams, salves or herbal oils, Calendula is anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, supportive to the lymphatic system’s circulation, antibiotic, and anti-fungal. It is unsurpassed for treating local skin problems due to infection and for treating wounds, burns, bruises, and muscle strains (physical damage).  Internally (as a tincture or in tea), it has a similarly soothing & healing effect on the mucus membranes of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tract. Continue reading