“Be true! Be true! Be true!” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Today I am thinking about Hawthorne, but not just the 19th century author from Salem, MA. Crataegus oxyacantha (or hawthorn) is a wonderful shrub of the Rose family that bestows berries full of heart-healing gifts, called hawthorn berries. The berries ripen for the picking in early Autumn, and Juliette de Bairacli Levy states that the aromatic flowers are said to bring fairies into the house – but she warns not to pick them before May. Kay Parent, an amazing herbalist and intuitive healer, advised me to make a hawthorn berry tincture with brandy to help improve my circulation and treat my longtime Raynaud’s condition. Also known as May Bush and Thorn Apple Tree, here are a few ways this crimson red berry can contribute to your heart health:
Wishing you healthful and heart-full healing ♥ ♥ ♥
Born under the influence of Scorpio in Manchester England, in the year of the sinking of the Titanic and the founding of the Girl’s Scouts, Juliette de Bairacli Levy was a pioneer herbalist who travelled the world seeking out ancient remedies and herbal teachings from all she encountered. What I admire the most about her was her fearless sense of adventure and her insatiable curiosity that drove her to discover worlds and cultures otherwise hidden from view. Her herbal travels led her throughout Europe, Turkey, North Africa, Israel and Greece, where she stayed for spells amongst gypsies, farmers, mountain people, and livestock breeders, learning their medicinal wisdom and sharing her tales with them as friends. When reading her books, one is compelled to explore her own boundaries and limitations; Juliette’s unapologetic approach to raising children naturally, living in tune with nature, and trusting the wisdom of our own bodies rings with a deeply rooted truth, handed down with the confidence only someone living with their heart and soul can convey. Here are some books written by Juliette of the Herbs, and some photos of her travels to inspire the wandering herbalist inside each of us…
As Gypsies Wander: Being an account of life with gypsies in England, Provence, Spain, Turkey, London: Faber & Faber, 1962.
Spanish Mountain Life: the Sierra Nevada, London: Faber & Faber, 1955.
Wanderers in the New Forest, London: Faber & Faber, 1958
Summer in Galilee, London: Faber & Faber, 1959.
The Natural Rearing of Children, London: Faber & Faber, 1970
A Herbal Handbook for Everyone, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.
Tell him to buy me an acre of land, Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Betwixt the salt water and the sea sand, Then he shall be a true lover of mine.
One of my favorite songs of all time is Scarborough Fair, a traditional British ballad, particularly the version angelically sung by Simon+Garfunkel on their 1966 album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.” Whenever I listen, I feel like I am taken to a different time and place, a place of simplicity and purity, romance, magic, chivalry. The 4 herbs sung about in this traditional hymn are some of the most virtuous of herbs, and also the simplest to grow and to integrate into your day to day. Here are some ways to use the famous four and the benefits that come along with them, inspired by The Good Herb by Judith Benn Hurley:
1. Parsley, the magical multivitamin. Hurley writes, “just a cup of parsley contains more vitamin C than an orange, more beta carotene than a carrot, more calcium than milk, and much more iron than a serving of liver.” The Cherokee Indians used it to prevent infections and in Germany and China its been used traditionally to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. You can grow it in a container with enough space for its long taproot, and make sure it gets at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Take a bath with parsley tea when you’re fatigued and it will freshen you right up. Parsley is an herb of gemini.
2. Sage, the ceremonial healer+savior. Used by Native Americans in smudging ceremonies to cleanse and purify the air of any negativity. Ancient Arabic and Chinese herbalists drank sage tea for mental and spiritual clarity, and drinking a cup of sage tea helps concentration and memory. Sage is known to darken hair, cover up grey hairs, as a cooling skin soother after shaving, and to decrease excessive perspiration. Sage can be grown indoors near a window with 6 hours of sun. Keep it shorter than 12 inches tall for best health. Sage protects other plants such as Rosemary from disease. Sage is an herb of Aquarius.
3. Rosemary, the mind soother. The Greeks wore garlands of this herb to ward off the evil eye and to help them remember their studies. It was said that rosemary refused to grow in the gardens of an evil person. Rosemary was placed under pillows to prevent nightmares and induce peaceful sleep. It’s mostly used for stress management, headaches, and digestive health. It is full of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body. Rosemary does not endure freezing winters, so it is wise to plant it in pots and bring them in in wintertime. They need full sun, at least 4-6 hours a day, and the soil should be moist at all times. Rosemary is an herb of Aries.
4. Thyme, the courage-giving mint. Knights of the Middle Ages wore sprigs of thyme in their armor as a sign of courage and bravery. Thyme contains powerful antibacterial and antiseptic properties that fight off coughs, colds, and gum disease. It is high in iron, but use a splash of lemon in your thyme tea to help the body absorb it. You can make a thyme massage oil or tincture to cleanse the skin and treat fungal infections. Thyme grows like the hair of a maiden, falling over in tangles low to the ground. You can grow it in pots indoors and provide 6 hours of sunlight, and it will repel whiteflies. Keep the thyme healthy and growing by pruning them in winter and running your hands through the branches often. Thyme is an herb of Taurus and Libra.
Why aromatherapy? True healing is holistic and should take the whole person into consideration. Our bodies and souls are interconnected and wellbeing is the balance between them. I believe scent is the sense that unifies the body and the soul, it is physical yet so elusive and its effects on our entire being are undeniably powerful. Olfaction (sense of smell) in humans is the first sense to develop, and it’s already given to babies inside the mother’s womb. The sense of smell is embedded in the amygdala in our brain, precisely where emotions are born and stored. Healing with scent is a natural approach to wellness, and for the skeptics, research reveals the virtues of aromatherapy beyond any doubt.
How to do it? Most people use essential oils for aromatherapy. Essential oils are the quintessence of a plant or flower captured and concentrated. Since this requires a massive amount of plant matter to produce a tiny amount of oil, they can be expensive and are very strong. The good news is you can practice the art of aromatherapy with OR without essential oils:
*MAKE YOUR OWN FLOWER ESSENCES~pick the freshest flowers possible at a time when they are full of life and their scent is at their peak. Place them in a glass bowl and leave it under the soon (or moon) for at least 3 hours. strain the water and bottle the liquid. you can add some brandy as a preservative.
*SURROUND YOURSELF~cook with them, sleep with them, put them in vases and bowls around your house. There is nothing quite as comforting as the smells of cinnamon wafting throughout the house, or relaxing as a bathtub exuding the scents of roses and lavender. Keep a dish of coffee beans nearby your desk at work to perk you up midday, it’s as effective as drinking it!
*STOP+SMELL THE ROSES!!!~The simplest and purest way to reap the benefits of the flowers is to surround yourself with them in their natural habitat. Taking a moment to sit outside near a flower and smell its essence is medicine. Find or grow an aromatic garden where you can breathe in nature’s medicine anytime. Continue reading