August – Wheat (Triticum vulgare)

095August – a time of harvest and usually the busiest time of year for arable farmers.  Wheat has been used for thousands of years for food, providing a staple which early agricultural civilization developed around.  The British Museum has artefacts from Thebes, Egypt indicating its use at around 1500 BC.

Wheat provides complex carbohydrates which fuel the body and provides vitamins including some of the essential vitamin Bs.  Wheat is the main ingredient in breads, pasta, crackers but it is more than that, it is used in many other products such as hair conditioners, adhesives on postage stamps oh and we mustn’t forget wheat beer.

It is thought that the Roman goddess, Ceres, protector of the grain, gave grains their common name today – “cereal”.  At the time of writing this according to http://www.ukagriculture.com in the UK wheat is grown across 2 million hectares and producing about 16 million tonnes each year.

In more recent times there has been an increase in the amount of people with a wheat allergy with  symptoms including hives, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, stuffy nose, headaches, and asthma.  Treatment often involves a lifelong gluten free diet and taking vitamin and mineral supplements.  I have had a number of patients with symptoms associated with a wheat allergy seek out homeopathy.

The homeopathic remedy made from wheat (Triticum vulgare) was published in the  January 1880 edition of The Organon: A quarterly Anglo-American Journal of Hom. Medicine and Progressive Collateral Science.  Symptoms included a headache that started in the morning located across the eyes and forehead, worse after walking and stopping the head.  There was also a symptom of the menstrual period occurring every two weeks.

The Harvest Moon

The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.

The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.

And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can’t sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.

The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry ‘We are ripe, reap us!’ and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.

Ted Hughes

094

Evening Primrose – Oenthera biennis

(Images courtesy of Helen Lee http://www.helenleehomeopathy.com/)

Oenthera biennis – A commonly used homeopathic remedy in relation to exhausting, watery diarrhoea.  The remedy comes from the exciting and dynamic summer garden flower that opens its blossoms by dusk and closes by sunrise.

In the Victorian language of flowers the evening primrose represents fickleness.

The root of it’s name is a mystery as it could come from a couple of places:
– the Greek onos theras, meaning “donkey catcher”
– the Greek oinos theras, meaning “wine seeker”
– the Latin oenthera meaning “a plant whose juices may cause sleep”

It is edible, the roots can be gathered at the end of the first year of growth and used as a root vegetable.

Evening primrose oil (pressed from seeds) is commonly seen on the shelves of health food shops in either liquid or capsule form.  It is primarily used to help relieve PMS symptoms and has also been used topically to treat skin irritations.

Evening primrose (John Clare)

When once the sun sinks in the west,
And dewdrops pearl the evening’s breast;
Almost as pale as moonbeams are,
Or its companionable star,
The evening primrose opens anew
Its delicate blossoms to the dew;
And, hermit-like, shunning the light,
Wastes its fair bloom upon the night,
Who, blindfold to its fond caresses,
Knows not the beauty it possesses;
Thus it blooms on while night is by;
When day looks out with open eye,
Bashed at the gaze it cannot shun,
It faints and withers and is gone.

 

 

Elderflower – Sambucus nigra

This well-loved, bushy tree is a common sight especially in Southern England.  The whitish flowers start to appear in May and by the end of summer they develop into drooping bunches of small purple-black berries.

Elderflower

‘Elder’ may have been derived from ‘Aeld’, the Anglos Saxon word meaning fire, with the hollowed branches used to blow up such a fire.  The generic name Sambucus may have come from the Greek word Sambuca, the Sackbu – an ancient musical instrument in much use among the Romans.  The tree wood is extremely hard and perhaps was used to construct such an instrument.

The tree is surrounded by myth with ancient beliefs that the tree was inhabited by a tree dryad.  If treated with honour the dryad would protect those that cared for it.  Often trees were planted near houses to protect them.  If treated poorly (cut or burned) then the dryad would seek vengeance on the offender by punishing them with bad luck.  Only with asking the dryad fore consent were they cut and parts of them used as a protective charm or for medicine.

Eldertrees surrounded by such superstition became trees of witches as Christianity spread.  The stories changed with the tree being portrayed as one of sorrow because Judas hung himself from one after betraying Jesus.  It continued its use however with people hanging it from their doors to ward off evil spirits.  In more recent times an Elder Wand was one of the Deathly Hallows sought by Harry Potter – the most powerful wand that ever existed.

In 1644 The Anatomie of the Elder was a book entirely devoted to the tree.  230 pages detailing the medicinal virtues of every part of the tree from its flowers to a large fungus called ‘Jew’s ears’ possibly named after Judas.  The medicinal claims of the fungus included quinsy, sore throats and strangulation!

Later the same century John Evelyn wrote in the Elder’s praise by saying:
‘If the medicinal properties of its leaves, bark and berries were fully known, I cannot tell what our countryman could ail for which he might not fetch a remedy from every hedge, either for sickness, or wounds.’
‘The buds boiled in water gruel have effected wonders in a fever, the spring buds are excellently wholesome in pattages; and small ale in which Elder flowers have been infused is esteemed by many so salubrious that this is to be had in most of the eatinghouses about our town.’

Homeopathically the remedy Sambucus nigra  is said to act “especially on the respiratory organs, also upon kidneys and the skin.”  (Murphy R. Homeopathic Remedy Guide).  It is frequently associated with both asthma and hay fever.

Finally I cannot leave this piece without mentioning the wonderful uses of it’s flowers for cordial and it’s berries for wine – a forages dream!

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

To make about 2 litres:

  • About 25 elderflower heads (only use the white flowers before they have started to turn brown)
  • Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)

Inspect  the flower heads and remove any insects before placing them into a large bowl with the orange and lemon zest.

Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil then pour the boiled water over the elderflowers and zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin and pout into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

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Lily of the Valley – Convallaria Majalis

White flowers suggestive of chastity and purity often included in a bride’s beautiful wedding bouquet.   Lily of the Valley also sometimes calls ladder-to-heaven thought to have been named as such by medieval monks who saw the even step like arrangement of the flowers along the stalk as symbolic of steps to heaven.   It has been said that Lily of the Valley grew from the spot where Mary’s tears hit the ground at the foot of the cross.

As far back as the 16th century herbalists have used the flowers for treatment of gout.  It has also been noted for use in treating ailments of the heart in a similar way to the foxglove – slowing the heart down and inducing regularity and efficiency in the strokes.  During the first world war, it was used to treat victims of gassing to reduce blood pressure.

The scent of is easily recognisable and has been used by the perfume industry for many years.  Strangely it has been said that nightingales are attracted to the flowers and they can drive them into a sexual frenzy.

E.B. Nash, MD describes his experience of using Lily of the Valley homeopathically- “Soreness in the uterine region and sympathetic palpitation of the heart.  It has also served me well in dropsies of cardiac origin, especially in women who have at the same time the above mentioned soreness in the uterine region. (Leaders in Homeopathic Therapeutics with Grouping and Classification)

“The Lily of the valley, breathing in the humble grass
Answer’d the lovely maid and said: “I am a watry weed,
And I am very small, and love to dwell in lowly vales;
So weak, the gilded butterfly scarce perches on my head;
Yet I am visited from heaven, and he that smiles on all
Walks in the valley and each morn over me spreads his hand,
Saying: ‘Rejoice, thou humble grass, thou new-born lily flower,”
-William Blake, The Book of Thel, and the Marriage of Heaven and Hell

English Daisy – Bellis perennis

The English Daisy is April’s birth flower and a member of the Compositae family.  It is a symbol of purity and innocence.  The name “daisy” is thought to come from the Old English “daes eage”, meaning “day’s eye”, for the way it opens at dawn and closes at midnight.

It has been used in folk medicine, usually in the form of tea, to relieve coughs, improve digestion and slow bleeding.

Introduced to homeopathy by Compton Burnett in 1880, it is not as well known as it’s relation Arnica but just as useful, referred to as the gardener’s friend and to be considered in relation to:

  • Injuries to soft tissue such as the breast and abdomen03C62204
  • Recent and remote effects of blows, falls, straining
  • Sprains and bruises.
  • Injuries to deeper tissues from surgery
  • Injuries to the coccyx like Hypericum
  • Injuries to the ligaments like Ruta
  • Deep trauma and septic wounds like Calendula
  • Bruised soreness; sometimes better from motion and rubbing

A riddle

“An eye in a blue face
Saw and eye in a green face.
“That eye is like to this eye”
Said the first eye,
“But in low place
Not in high place””
(The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien)
Answer – Sun on the daises

March – Narcissus

002

“She turned to the sunlight

                And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbour:

                “Winter is dead””

-A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

The road side displays and the fresh bunches as you walk into the supermarket give a yellow bright sign of the longer days and the end of winter.  The botanical name Narcissus may have come from the plants narcotic properties with the Greek word  ‘Narkao’ – ‘to be numb’.   Narcissus in Greek myth was the son of River God Cephisus and nymph Liriope.  He was known for his beauty and he was loved by the God Apollo due to his extraordinary physique.  Aminias, a young man fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his male suitors, Aminias was also spurned by Narcissus who gave the unfortunate young man a sword.  Aminias killed himself at Narcissus’ doorstep praying to the Gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he provoked.  Narcissus was once walking by a lake and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself.  He could not obtain the object of his desire though, and he died at the banks of the lake from his sorrow.  According to the myth Narcissus is still admiring himself in the Underworld, looking at the waters of the Styx.

The pharmaceutical drug Reminyl contains galantamine (an alkaloid found in daffodils) and is approved for use in the UK and Ireland for early stage and moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.

The homeopathic remedy was originally made from alkaloids found in the flowering bulbs and symptoms associated with it include coughs, bronchitis and the convulsive stage of whooping cough.

A post about this golden flower would be incomplete if Wordsworth were not quoted – “A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

 

February – Snowdrops

Welcome, welcome!” sang and sounded every ray, and the Flower lifted itself up over the snow into the brighter world. The Sunbeams caressed and kissed it, so that it opened altogether, white as snow, and ornamented with green stripes. It bent its head in joy and humility.

“Beautiful Flower!” Said the Sunbeams, “how graceful and delicate you are! You are the first, you are the only one! You are our love!  You are the bell that rings out for summer, beautiful summer, over country and town. All the snow will melt; the cold winds will be driven away; we shale rule; all will become green, and then you will have companions, syringas, laburnums, and roses; But you are the first, so graceful, so delicate!” (Extract from “The Snowdrop” by Hans Christian Anderson)

DSC_0235(1)The common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), the flower that gives as a sign that we are past the middle of winter and spring is on the way.

It’s homeopathic uses are described by W. Boericke  and include faintness, sinking sensations.  Half conscious and worried feeling during sleep.  Like the flower breaking through the snow, a remedy associated with those coming out of a period of darkness, fearful of change requiring some hope.

Contained within the snowdrop is the alkaloid galantamine which has been approved for use in the management of Alzheimer’s disease in some countries.  It has also been used in the treatment of traumatic injuries to the nervous system.

For such a small flower what wonderful uses – the flower of hope.

“And catching, as he gently spake,
A flake of falling snow
He breathed on it, and bade it take,
A form, and bud and blow;
And ere the flake had reached the earth,
Eve smiled upon the beauteous birth,
That seemed, amid the general dearth
Of living things, a greater prize
Than all her flowers in Paradise.

DSC_0229And thus the snowdrop, like the bow
That spans the cloudy sky,
Becomes a symbol whence we know
That brighter days are nigh;
That circling seasons, in a race
That knows no lagging, lingering pace,
Shall each the other nimbly chase,
Till Time’s departing final day
Sweep snowdrops and the world away”

(Origin of the Snowdrop by George Wilson)

 

January – Helleborus niger

Common names: Bear’s foot, Black hellebore, Christ’s herb, Christmas-herb, Christmas rose, Clove-tongue, Fetter-Wort, Fetter-Grass, St Agnes’s rose

Family:  Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)

Description: Evergreen low-lying plant with dark shiny leaves with large, cup-shaped, rose-like white or pink-flushed flowers (about 3”) with crowns of yellow stamens.  Each flower has five large and showy petal-like sepals.

Bloom time:       Winter into spring – can vary based on the severity of winter

History: Mentioned in texts by Diosorides, Hippocrates, Pliny and Paracelsus with claims of use since as early as 1400BC.  Robert Burton’s text The Anatomy of Melancholy published in 1621 wrote:

Borage and hellebore fill two scenes,
Sovereign plants to purge the veins
Of melancholy, and cheer the heart
Of those black fumes which make it smart

Homeopathic remedy: The remedy Helleborus niger (or as it is often shortened to Hell.) supplied by Helios Homeopathy is sourced from the Rhizome.

Frans Vermeulen names the following guiding symptoms in “Prisma The Arcana of Materia Medica Illuminated”:            Stupor; Indifference; slow and forgetful; dull; feeling of helplessness; sadness and despair

Homeopathic cases:

N.B. Helleborus niger is a very poisonous plant that is toxic when taken in all but the smallest doses. As such it should not be taken except under the supervision of a qualified homeopath.