Folklore, Folkmedicine, Folks
Folklore tells us people observed animals choosing certain plants used at time of birthing, injury, or seasonal changes, and people then chose remedies based on what the animals chose. For centuries, herbalists, folk doctors, and caretakers have chosen local plants for the well-being of those in their care. Now it is our turn to choose remedies for our domesticated animals.
When I started using flower essences 40 years ago, the only ones available were from the repertoire of Dr. Edward Bach, British homeopathic physician and discoverer of flower essence therapy. From 1930 to 1936, Bach discovered, researched, demonstrated, documented, and taught others his simple system comprised of 36 plants and trees, one unique source of water (Rock Water essence), and one blend of 5 flowers known as Rescue Remedy. His idea was to keep Flower Essence Therapy in the hands of the layperson, not scientists or other doctors and that is exactly what he did in his research, teachings, and proliferation of his unique discoveries.
Many who study Bach say his work is complete and these are the only agents ever to be used in flower essence therapy. However, I disagree having never read anywhere that Bach declared his research concluded. My thought is, if Dr. Bach had not died at such a young age, he would have given us more than 38 remedies.
Conversely, I do not believe we need thousands of exotic and rare essences as marketed today. I invite you to choose plants based on accessibility and commonality. What I tell people is that animals and humans are not so complicated. Our emotional needs are simple, yet sometimes difficult to provide for in certain settings. Sometimes outside help is needed to smooth personality excesses, bring out hidden potential, or help overcome damage to mind and emotions.
Use an herbalist’s mind when choosing a plant or tree to make an essence – try to take into account all aspects of the plant, or at least the glaring ones. For example, consider its appearance, where it has chosen to grow, how, or when. Is it invasive, showy, and demanding attention, like the passion flower? Delicate and wispy like clematis? Does it grow in a place with a far-reaching history (mustard)? Does it grow where it is needed (arnica)? Obnoxiously cheery and bold personality (dandelion)?
Aconite - Be courageously willing. For personalities prone to sensitivity and restlessness. Never quite focused on the person or task in front of you. Historically Monkshood, Wolfsbane was used for shock, numbness, fear, sensitivity, and sudden fright.
Agrimony - See things as they truly are. Confront and change old negative behavior patterns, living conditions, values. Step into personal, positive authorship of your own life. Transformation for personalities that hide behind an acrimonious face masking their true feelings.
Angel’s Trumpet - This highly poisonous plant, when used as a flower essence, helps foster trust and acceptance of change without fear. Recognize the best in any situation. Datura, 15 species worldwide including jimson (loco) weed, is a violently toxic and deadly plant historically used in suicides, thus the nickname, people who used Datura would soon hear the angel’s trumpet.
In an essence, this plant allows people to see the best in themselves and in others; it helps with inner conflict, a need for drastic change, adaptation to existing circumstances or else be overwhelmed by them, as in the Gulf region post-Katrina. Some chose to stay and rebuild while others chose to move away and still others chose to succumb – suicides tripled in the Gulf region in the year following Katrina.
Angel’s Trumpet was the first to bloom in New Orleans post-Katrina in a neighborhood next to the French Quarter. It was New Year’s Day 2006 when we spotted this huge flower in front of an abandoned home with “FEMA Graffiti” – spray painted symbols noting date, searchers’ affiliation, number rescued, and number of bodies in the house. Notes about animals were often written on door. The graffiti was a grim reminder of the disaster 4 months previous, but the Angel’s Trumpet flowers were a sign of renewal and rejuvenation, moving forward while recognizing and realizing our personal and collective best.
Apple – Cleanse negative self-image. Apple personality is fresh, complicated, bittersweet, impossible to categorize, refreshing, with potential to mature and grow into best version of self. Habitual thought does not make fiction fact.
Arnica - For emotional relief post-trauma. Cleanses hurtful memories. Helps in reconnecting to life after suffering any loss of security such as an accident. Excellent for the overly sensitive personality and for fear of touch as in cases of abuse.
Folklore has it that arnica was first used after people observed mountain goats in the Alps seek out the arnica plant (reportedly eating it and rolling in it) for relief after suffering an accident or injury. Arnica in its natural herbal form is highly toxic to humans and should never be used internally, but in homeopathic form, Arnica Montana enjoys a great reputation among athletes for muscle soreness, bruising, and strain due to overexertion. Those in need of it do not recognize exhaustion and continue on in a state like shock, often to greater injury.
Bleeding Heart – For the worst draining and inconsolable grief. Feeling “bled dry” of your own life force after a loss.
Cherry Plum - For composure and to resist the immediate impulse to mis-behave. For the personality who can’t relax in the moment to see that everything is actually OK. Mentally fighting to not behave impulsively and make poor choices. I equate this to a “pause button” on the remote control governing emotions, thinking, and influencing behavior.
Clematis - For the personality that is like these delicate flowers with soft, diffused colors, appearing dreamy and unfocused with no interest in simple, daily tasks. The animals who came to me for help seemed to “come alive” with this flower essence remedy. They get an enthusiasm about their life that had been missing. They want to participate and take ownership in decision making. Most were startled by their own interactive behaviors in the beginning because it was so new to them or long forgotten. Clematis is for those in need of stimulation, enthusiasm, and purposeful living.
Clover - Sweetens any task. Friendship strengthener. Brings out the best. Folklore assigns this prolific spring and summer flower as a blood cleanser and hormone balancer. Use white, pink, red – whatever you have.
Dandelion - Dandelion helps those who are in need of change, requiring courage and the self-confidence of a lion. It is for the personality that is often crabby, never satisfied, in need of eliminating deep-seated, negative habits.
Cheerful Dandelion enjoys a reputation as the “Flower of Survival” either because it is among the first to bloom after winter or because it springs back after being stepped on. It is colorful, abundant, and hardy. Historically used as tea, wine, food, and in folk medicine as a “springtime” tonic for eliminating sluggishness. One of my absolute favorites.
Impatiens - Increase patience. Overcome irritability and restlessness.
Impatiens is often overlooked because it is so unpretentious and adaptable and not much is written about this Himalayan flower. It is simple in its elegance and delicacy, yet powerful enough to change a personality. As an essence, Impatiens is one that can never be over-used as most people and animals could do with more patience. Those in need of this essence are impulsive, stubborn, too independent, and/ or confrontational.
Mimulus - Ideal essence for the personality struggling with known fears, lacking conviction and belief in themselves to overcome a challenge.
This flower is actually shy, delicate, sensitive and found in extremely harsh environments. Sometimes a plant makes a statement as to what it can accomplish, as in the case of Mimulus being a delicate flower nonetheless growing in the most adverse conditions. It blooms only for several weeks and disappears if conditions become unfriendly or too harsh. If circumstances are not beneficial, Mimulus can lay dormant, hiding for years.
Mustard - Despair is the word most often used by Dr. Bach in describing the Mustard personality which suffers from lingering depression.
Excellent example of where a plant chooses to grow and flourish, which is usually exactly where it is most needed. The Mustard I gather is found growing prolifically in front of the San Luis Rey Mission in California. This marks the spot where many years ago, hundreds of Native American families were torn apart and the strong ones were forced to work within the walled confines of the Mission. They were forbidden to speak their native languages and practice their ceremonies, required to cut their hair, wear shoes, submit to physical punishment. Mustard grows spectacularly at this exact spot where the families were first separated and later would secretly meet, only to have to part again before getting caught.
Oak - Endurance, driven by sense of duty, fighting against rest until exhausted, describes the Oak personality.
“My” oak tree is a live coastal oak at 6,000 feet atop Palomar Mountain in San Diego County, California. This oak is upwards of 400 years old. If magic were ever going to be used to describe a tree or a forested area, this is the time and place. During the summer, when the tree was at its zenith, I placed some oak leaves in a glass bowl of water and let it potentize all night during a total lunar eclipse, during the following day in the sunshine, and again that night in the actual full moon. We call it: Oak Moon-lite Essence.
Passion Flower - Comfortable correction. Good for the personality that is aggressively making mistakes and needs gentle guidance to improve itself and its behavior.
Flourishing, gorgeous, multi-faceted flowers with tendrils that have apparent kinetic energy to reach for objects, elegantly attach itself, and climb. We once had a very cranky neighbor. He was antagonistic claiming a boundary dispute and said he was going to “exercise his rights as a property owner” utilizing an easement he marked off without benefit of a survey. I did not have the means nor the energy to fight him and instead planted Passion Flower along the disputed fence line. The flowering vine grew and flourished. Months later, official documents surfaced, revealing he and his fence actually encroached 20 feet onto our property (along the entire length of 900 foot fence). He was forced to correct his mistake.
Pine - Grow strong where you are planted. Draw on others for strength and good orderly direction.
Rock Rose - Overcome sudden shock. Restore hope. Remain steadfast. (One of my personal mainstays.)
Rose - Positive self-sufficiency.
Take a close look at the entire picture or process. Great for birthing as well as all transitions. Not like ‘rites of passage’ Agrimony. More like the sophisticated and elegant answer to life’s changes and challenges. Being wise not clever. Being calm not detached. Having integrity, understanding , and reliability.
Rosemary - Feel safe and secure in your choices on your personal path.
Like un-covering there always has been and always will be a divining force guiding your choices; intuition that never lets you down. FEELING LUCKY 24/7/365. To safely and easily seek your own answers – being loyal to yourself. Increases inspiration, self-esteem, and loyalty. Said to be a gift from the Greek Goddess, Aphrodite and also the Roman Goddess, Venus. Broad spectrum of practical and ceremonial uses in many varied forms. Named “rose of the sea” because historically sailors could smell Rosemary long before they could see land giving them feelings of comfort, security, and safety – without any doubt, knowing they were on the right course.
Star of Bethlehem – For shock or trauma of any description.
Star of Bethlehem is rumored to have been Dr. Bach’s favorite flower essence for treating shock. This is the only single remedy (all others were Flower Essence blends) I brought to the gulf region in September 2005, which proved itself indispensable. I dealt with hellacious post-Katrina situations as short-term manager of a barn full of critical care veterinary patients, all the cats, all the birds, all the exotics, snakes, and 150 aggressive dogs evacuated to Gonzales, LA. There were nearly 400 animals in this barn on any given day and 2,000 on premises.
After seeing how I was using Star of Bethlehem and making decisions quickly and confidently, a volunteer asked for my last bottle when headed to the hospital with a life-threatening spider bite. He and his family were shocked by the severity of the bite and uncertain of what the future held. He returned the next day after 2 emergency surgeries with a good prognosis. The family had drained the bottle!
Sweet Pea - For round-the-clock kindness.
Sweetgrass – Offers a deep feeling of security. Appreciate and welcome change. Ease tension in the moment.
I “discovered” Sweetgrass flower essence when long blades of Sweetgrass, sent from an Iroquois family in Canada, were soaking in a bowl of water to soften in order to braid and then dry for burning in a Native American ceremony. As soon as I saw the water, I said: “I’ll be having that for an essence.” My family and friends are always my first proving grounds. After each of us had a sip of the fresh Sweetgrass water, we fell asleep on each other like a litter of puppies. We slept soundly with contentment and comfort. This was during the summer of 2005 and within 2 months, introduced it in a blend for Hurricane Katrina victims to provide a feeling of security and reassurance.
Tiger Lilly – Promotes companionship and sense of team spirit.
For the companion lacking in thoughtfulness and consideration necessary in any give-and-take relationship. Bring out hidden gifts and potential like the dots “hiding” inside the petals of this Lily. Foster the sense of being part of something greater than yourself – not egotistical but more in an attitude of self-sufficiency while your individual contributions make the team stronger.
Yarrow - Thrive and flourish in hostile environments.
Clarify personal boundaries in any group setting. Rise above your present circumstances or surroundings when the situation itself can’t be improved – shelters, zoos, schools, work places, natural disasters, intimidating or overwhelming negativity of any kind.
Excellent for those who are continually asked to accept unacceptable treatment, behaviors, or environments. Draw on mental, emotional resources previously hidden, unused, not yet discovered. Also good for sudden change in environment and violent acts. To some, may be as innocent as crating, carrying, transporting, and depositing at a new location.
Yarrow Achilles millefolium is an intriguing plant with a good amount of written folklore. Legend has it a Centaur taught Achilles and his soldiers to stuff Yarrow leaves into arrow and spear wounds to stop the bleeding. The Dakota named Yarrow “medicine for the wounded.” For the Wounded Warrior/Hero in order to not to be drawn into negativity of present circumstances and to not be drained – “bled dry” by others or existing negative conditions.
Blends are like a companion garden, a team, a circle of friends – designed to bring out the singular and collective best in all. The idea is that each unto itself is whole and perfect but becomes a better version of itself when associated with others.
Addiction, abuse, sadness, and recovery all boil down to better choices – easy to say if you are already eating the green, green grass on the other side of THAT fence. Not afraid to speak my PIECE of a solution… in a place where massive amounts of anti-depressants and laxatives are consumed… in our sad, constipated nation.
I do not expect nor want anyone to take my word for IT - IT being the potential of a straightforward solution to help others that is “hiding” inside the plant, flower, stem, leaf, acorn, needle, seed or what have you – begging for acknowledgement. Create your own adventure, your own relationship with the flower, tree or weed that calls to you. There are no secrets in Nature, just answers we may be too impatient to notice or too distracted to accept. Essences of Impatiens and Clematis can help with those limitations.
Essences are inexpensive, accessible, easy to make, and nothing is harmed during preparation. Dried flowers and plants have been successfully used to make essences, and this may be needed in the near future, considering that some of these plants, trees, and flowers are being wild-crafted out of existence or are endangered from climate change, bug infestation, genetic modification, etc. Dr. Bach probably never imagined a world of changing climate, extinctions, undernourished soil, and contaminated water. But we are there and need to make adjustments, personally and globally.