Head Down – Treasure to Find!

During the three days of the Summer Solstice we had the loveliest of weather and thanks to the Goddess it is continuing.  Hurray!

Have you noticed how the energy has changed?  Something has definitely changed or shifted since last Friday.  On Friday I found myself skipping up and down kerbs in the city.  I was having wonderful conversations in my head and noticed I was gesticulating as if I was having a REAL conversation and I had to cop on to myself otherwise I would have had some funny looks.  I could feel energy or excitement brimming up inside of me and I wanted to dance along the streets, laugh, hug people.  I felt SO happy!  It was such a great feeling.  I felt as giddy as a teenager because I felt so full of light.  It must have been the solstice and the sun spot activity.  Or perhaps it was due to all the treasure I had recently found.

All too often we rush through life,,looking ahead to the next chore or activity.  We are always running out of time and dashing about doing.  I can be as guilty of this as anyone but fortunately, because where I live is so beautiful, I am regularly reminded to slow down and take it all in.

 

Looking around and looking down, I discover Devil’s Bit Scabious, English Stonecrop,  Hawkweed and different types of grass.

The purple of Self-Heal next to the white of Clover and the yellow of Dandelion make me think of treasure.    There are more treasures to be enjoyed if I keep looking down.

 

The colours of Red Clover and  Hawkweed along with the pale pink of the Blackberry flower and the blue of Devil’s Bit Scabious are like bright gems strewn in the grass.

 

There are so many stories within our folklore and within modern “morality” tales about people who are so busy searching for what they think is precious or is treasure, that they often don’t recognise it when it is right in front of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Stonecrop  looks like a scattering of fallen stars and Wild Thyme adds bright colour which stands out so beautifully against the green of the grass.  Our wild flowers are a treasure trove that we can enjoy if we go head down rather than looking ahead to what is coming next.  So many of these plants are medicinal or have been included in tales in our shared folk history.  The variety and diversity of size, shape, colour and possible use is quite amazing to see on a short walk.

 

Cow Parsnip with lacy umbels look so fresh and delicate.

I say treasure our wild flowers and keep your head down – so that you can see them.  Be a friend to them…which reminds me; if you would like to make a friend of a wild flower consider coming to my double workshop on Saturday 13 July – Finding a Plant Ally and Making a Flower Essence.  Details here,

How to Find Your Plant Ally and make a Flower Essence – 13 July 2019

And remember, when you are out walking, if you really look, there are many types of friends to be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mid Summer – An Abundance of Beauty

I always find June to  be quite a wet month (today is no exception) but a sunny Monday and Tuesday led into a dry Wednesday, 21st June, the high point of the Summer Solstice and we were able to enjoy a bonfire last night with some good friends who arrived unexpectedly.

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I was celebrating the beauty and abundance of Mother Nature and celebrating the fertility of the land. Giving thanks to the Sun for the warmth and light that enabled the plants to grow.

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Looking at the meadow where we had our bonfire, you can see many wild flowers including Buttercup, Sorrel, Red Clover and Self Heal as well as the ubiquitous  Ox-Eye Daisy.

I was also giving thanks for the growth of the many plants that I have sown or planted and that are full of mid summer energy and ripeness.

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The bee on the Passionflower is very happy too. Mid summer is the perfect time to harvest herbs or medicinal plants as they are full of healing energy.  My house is taken over by plants drying.

 

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They are hanging in the kitchen,

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They are all over the therapy room, on the plinth,

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on the floor and even on an armchair in the living room.

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There are more, already dried, that I am chopping up very fine to make into teas and as you can see, many bags to get through.

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Mid summer is that most perfect time of year here in Connemara, when the colours of the plants are so vivid and the scents of plants such as Honeysuckle/Woodbine, Lavender and Rose are so delicious. This is the time when Mother Nature’s abundance becomes really visible and the hard work of transforming her gifts into edible delights and medicinal tonics begins.

 

Dandelion – A “Self-Contained Pharmacy”

Dandelion, Taraxacum Officinale, is a common spring flower that can be seen everywhere at the moment, on meadows and lawns, in hedgerows and fields and even growing through tarmac.  There are over 1000 species of Dandelion in Europe alone, with 250 different plants in the British Isles.  The Dandelion can also be found in the Americas as well as in Asia.

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The Irish name is Caisearbhan and it also has many folk names such as Dent de Lion, Cankerwort, Piss au Lit, Piss the Bed and in Ireland, “..the indented one of Brigid”.  It is regarded as a sacred flower of Brigid as it the first wild flower to bloom after her festival of Imbolc at the beginning of February.

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It is regarded by many herbalists as a “..self-contained pharmacy” because it is one of the most useful medicinal plants known to man alleviating many conditions in an incredibly holistic way.  Dandelion was first mentioned in a Chinese Materia Medica in the 7th century.  It was  highly regarded by the  Arabian herbalist,  Avicenna, in the 11th century.  In Wales, at an internationally renowned school of herbalism in the 13th century, it was used as a liver herb.

The whole plant, apart from the stem,  can be used – root, leaves, flowers and sap. It is high in minerals, (particularly Potassium) Vitamins A, B2, C, D and E, Inulin, saponins, essential fatty acids, bitter principle and phytosterols amongst other ingredients.  Dandelion benefits the whole body and it is a spring cleanser or spring tonic – the young leaves especially are detoxifiers.  Working particularly on the liver and kidneys it supports the body as it expels toxins and pollutants thus helping those organs as well as nourishing the body and helping the body to maintain homeostasis.

According to herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy, the Dandelion is the

“..most esteemed plant of the herbalist.”

She writes that it is a safe and gentle herb for all liver and gall bladder disorders.  It is a blood tonic, a blood and lymph cleanser. Dandelion relieves liver complaints such as jaundice, hepatitis, gallstones and other problems. It also helps with diabetes and obesity because of its action on the pancreas, increasing insulin production.  Probably due to its silica content and crystalline quality, it can improve the enamel of teeth.  Juliette recommends a half dozen or so leaves every day.

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The leaves can taste quite bitter, particularly as they get older or bigger so it is a good idea to mix them in with a variety of salad leaves.  The bitterness though, is what makes them so beneficial to the digestive system by stimulating the digestive juices including hydrochloric acid in the stomach, bile and the pancreatic juices which help to promote appetite as well as to break down food to extract the nutrients.

The nick name, Piss the Bed, tells us that the Dandelion is renowned as a diuretic, it enables the urine to flow freely.  Culpeppper says that “..it opens the passages of the urine in young and old..” and in Irish herbal lore it was used to treat diseases of the urinary tract, to wash out infection and was regarded as good for removing gravel from kidneys, ureter and bladder.

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Unlike pharmaceutical diuretics though, which leach Potassium from the body, (a deficiency which can lead to high blood pressure) Dandelion has a high Potassium content which reveals how holistic this herb is, how it can help all the systems of the body.  Working on the urinary system to increase urine output, (for problems such as fluid retention, swollen ankles and high blood pressure) at the same time it strengthens the entire urinary system and can be useful in helping children who are bed wetting as well the elderly person with incontinence.

 The milky sap of the stem has traditionally been used for warts and verrucas and for stys on eyelids.  People have also used it to remove age spots and freckles.  The flowers can be eaten in salads – they taste sweet – and can be made into fritters, beer and wine.  They benefit the pancreas. The flowers are also a beautiful golden yellow, brightening up our world.  Once it has worked on our livers and kidneys, we see improvement in our skin and energy levels too.

Julie Bruton-Seal, a contemporary herbalist, has this to say about Dandelion,

“As a medicine the whole plant is invaluable for liver and gall bladder problems, skin complaints such as eczema and acne. It’s action helps to reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol, the pain of artheriosclorosis and joints, digestive problems, chronic illness, viral infections and heart and lung irregularities”

In old Ireland, Dandelion was included in a folk remedy called Diancecht’s Porridge, (Diancecht was the Healer of the Tuatha de Danaan) which  was used as a cure for many ills including colds and sore throats and disorders of the stomach. It included hazel buds, chickweed, wood sorrel and Dandelion mixed with oatmeal.  Seems to me to be a recipe for spring time to restore well being after the long, dark, winter.

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You can make tea, decoctions and tinctures from Dandelion to address all the physical complaints mentioned so far. Infused in olive oil it makes an excellent rub for muscle tension and for old stiff joints and also does its bit as an anti-wrinkle moisuriser.  As a flower essence, Dandelion is a Spiritual Warrior plant, working tirelessly to bring in the Light and to overcome the darkness.  Dandelion Flower Essence helps us to increase and energise our own inner light and can be a great support in these topsy-turvy times.

Dandelion is a very interesting plant just for its own sake, regardless of its healing properties.  It is associated with the sun because of its disc of golden yellow, ray like petals which open and close with the sun.  Known as the Shepherd’s Clock in some places because the flowers open around 5am and do not close until about 8pm.

Dandelion is a perenniel plant, self-fertilising and pollinated by wind.  It does not rely on insects at all, yet it still provides sustenance for bees and other insects in the spring time which proves yet again the intelligence and generosity of Mother Nature – and the Dandelion as well of course. When an insect lands on the Dandelion it moves around the flower head from the outside to the inner centre in a clockwise spiral motion.  The spiral is a symbol often associated with the Earth and Mother Goddess and was used often by our ancestors. It is a tough plant, tenacious and undefeated.  You can try to poison it with herbicide, burn it, mow it or dig it out and it will return.  It is incredibly adaptable and grows anywhere and everywhere.

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According to ancient herbal lore it is ruled by Jupiter and also corresponds to the Sun and to the elements of Fire and Air. It has a long tap root which is associated with Earth energy.  The golden yellow flower is associated with Solar energy and its seed head, which is silvery is associated with Lunar energy.  The seeds themselves are like stars.  So in one plant we have all the heavens here on earth.

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The flufffy seed head is often used by children as a clock.  Blow three times and count the seeds that are left or blow, blow, blow – count the breaths or blows til all seeds are gone.  It can  be used as a barometer as both the flower heads and seed heads close if the day is to be wet.

All in all Dandelion is a wonderful plant to have for SO many reasons. It can help the body and the mind and spirit and because it keeps the body clean and toxin free it can also be used as part of a cancer treatment, particularly for breast cancer. This magnificent plant really deserves our appreciation and gratitude.

If you would like to know more about herbs, consider signing up for a Plant Wisdom herbal workshop. If you would like to comment on this blog, please do so on the Facebook page.