Archive for the ‘Aromatherapy’ Category

Ponderosa Lemon – Citrus limon ‘Ponderosa’

Ponderosa Lemon
Ponderosa Lemon

Out of lemon flowers

loosed

on the moonlight, love’s

lashed and insatiable

essences,

sodden with fragrance,

the lemon tree’s yellow

emerges….

 

 By Pablo Nerunda

This lemon cultivar is a chance development on a farm in Hagerstown, Maryland. In about 1887 George Bowman found this cultivar, a hybrid of a citron and lemon, but it was not introduced or named until 1900. The original lemon is believed to have originated in India, but the exact place is difficult to know since this tree has followed man as he explored and settled new areas around the world. The lemon was taken with Christopher Columbus to Hispaniola in 1493, and the Spanish were credited with its early introduction to St Augustine, Florida.

 

This relatively small evergreen tree (only 12-24 ft tall at full growth) has thorns, like so many other citrus relatives, and produces flowers year round. This constant flower production means you are likely to see flowers, and fruit (at any stage of growth) growing on the tree at the same time. These fruit on the Ponderosa Lemon are similar in appearance to the regular lemon; they are just much larger and lumpy! They can be as large as 2 – 5 pounds in weight when fully grown. Their rind or skin is also very thick. One of these Ponderosa Lemons can make several pitchers of lemonade!

 

The taste and aroma of this variety is also almost identical to the regular lemon seen in the grocery store; and can be used in identical situations. The juice can be made into lemonade, or used to flavor any meat of fish dish. It can also be made into desserts (such as lemon meringue pie) and as a flavoring almost anywhere you can imagine it. Often in cooking it is the zest that is desired, and for some dishes is highly prized.

 

The left over plant matter after making juice commercially is used to produce citric oil, pectin, and citric acid. All of these are used in the food industry and by the cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies. Lemon juice can be used to remove stains, and with salt to clean copper pots safely. The peel oil has been used to manufacture furniture polish, and detergents.

In cosmetics it has been utilized in creams for bleaching freckles, for facial cleaning creams, in soaps, and shampoos.

 

In herbal medicine any lemon can be used the same way, it is known as a diuretic, antiscorbutic, astringent, and febrifuge. In Italy it is utilized to treat gingivitis, stomatitis, and inflammation of the tongue. In Cuba the root is used for fever; while in West Africa the root is used for gonorrhea.

Have fun with the kids and make invisible ink! Take the juice of 1 lemon (3 teaspoons if no fresh is available), and add 1 teaspoon of water. Mix these well. Now have the kids ‘write’ with a brush or fingertip a message onto normal paper. Let them watch this dry. As it dries the ‘writing’ disappears! It will only reappear if a candle is passed below the paper. Please do not allow children to do this activity without proper supervision, NO Fires Here!

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Sweet Grass – Hierochloe odorata

Sweetgrass by Prof Otto Wilhelm Thome
Sweetgrass by Prof Otto Wilhelm Thome

…With sage, sweetgrass, and cedar,
Native people will honor their Wolf cousins
They know of your strong medicine
and the gifts a Great Spirit has given you…

By 3 Hawks

 

When you come upon Sweetgrass growing in the wild you do not have to see it, you smell it! And oh what a scent! The first time I actually smelled it growing, was at a Pow Wow in Maine. It occurred in September, Labor Day weekend to be exact, and the temps were freezing the water in the buckets at night. It was hard camping that long weekend, because not only had we not prepared adequately for the low temps, but there was also the rain shield from a passing hurricane to deal with. There were numerous reasons why we all found it worthwhile to be there (even the teenagers), but the most important to me personally was finding Sweetgrass for the first time, and being taught how to harvest it correctly!

This member of the grass family is native to a large area, being what is called “circumpolar.” This means it is native around the world in the areas surrounding the Arctic Circle. It is rarely found in pure growth stands, but almost always found growing mixed with other grasses. This plant is listed as Endangered in Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Sweet Grass has been used in herbal medicine for centuries. The Natives of North America used a tea for sore throats, coughs, fever, chafing and venereal infections. Women found it useful in helping to expel afterbirth and to stem vaginal bleeding. Smoke from the burning blade of grass has been inhaled for the treatment of colds.

An essential oil has been used to flavor sweets and soft drinks, the flavor and smell both being vanilla like. In Europe the leaves have been added to vodka to give the vanilla influence to the alcohol. The Polish people add several blades of grass to each bottle of Zubrowka vodka, giving it a yellow-green color and the vanilla flavor!

Sweetgrass is a sacred plant (to Native Americans one of the 4 sacred plants) to the native people of all areas where it is found growing. Here in North America, it is cut, dried and then braided into ‘ropes’ of grass for burning as a smudge or incense. The use of this herb cleanses the area and person, draws friendly spirits, and carries prayers to Creator. It has also been included in herbal smoking mixtures, along with red willow and bearberry. Sweetgrass will retain the vanilla scent for a long time, and has been used to line baskets, hung in closets, placed on the shelves of a linen closet, and in bureau drawers to help keep things smelling fresh.

Note: This illistrations comes from Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé from the Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, 1885, Gera, Germany (Image in Public Domain)

Cacao – Theobroma cacao

Cacao leaf
Cacao leaf

I love chocolate, oh yes I do.

Eating chocolate is a must too.

I love chocolate, how about you?

They say dark chocolate is now good for you too.

 

By Nichole Kaci McKnight

‘Food of the Gods,’ the aphrodisiac of rulers and emperors, will only grow within a limited range. The tree must be planted within 20 degrees of the equator, with Hawaii being the only place in the US to grow it!

The tree was grown in Mexico, Central and South America for an extremely long time, pre-contact! The ancient races of people who lived there used chocolate as a form of currency, and found it so very valuable that only the ruling class could consume it! They also believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac. The earliest cocoa plantations were established in 600 AD, in the Yucatan, by the Mayans.

Chocolate was not introduced to Europe until 1502 on Columbus’s 4th voyage for Spain. What he brought back with him were the cacao beans (or seeds). At that time he related how to make the drink he had witnessed being consumed, which included chilies and was dyed red. This was the drink that Montezuma drank 50 goblets of daily!

The people of the Amazon basin have used cocoa butter for ages as a soothing rub for bruises. The fruit is used to treat depression, fatigue, weight gain, and reduced sex drive! In cosmetics the cocoa butter is also employed in treatments for rough or chafed skin, chapped lips, sore nipples, and fancy soaps.

The cocoa bean has up to 50% fat, when that is removed what is left is cocoa powder. This powder is used to make hot chocolate, chocolate candy, and all the other wonderfully, sinful chocolate delights. When boiled in milk, it has in the past been used as a very nutritious food for convalescing patients and invalids.

But beware! Chocolate is also a poison….pet dogs, cats, parrots, and even horses are very susceptible to poisoning from this human treat. Only 2 ounces of chocolate can cause death in smaller animals. The theobromine causes cardiac and central nervous system stimulation; early symptoms of poisoning include diarrhea, abdominal distention, restlessness, and vomiting! This may worsen with time to include hyperactivity, polyuria (abnormally large production of urine), ataxia (dysfunction of parts of the nervous system), tremors and seizures. When death does occur it is brought on by hyperthermia, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat, too fast or slow, etc). If your animal has consumed chocolate….get it at once to the vet!!

 

Note on above illustration: from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887 [Image in Public Domain]

Bald Cypress – Taxodium distichum

Bald Cypress cones
Bald Cypress cones

Come away, come away, death.
 And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away, breath;
   I am slain by a fair cruel maid.

 

Shakespeare

Twelfth Night; or, What You Will
Act II, Scene VI

 

This native of coastal swamps of the eastern sea-board of North America can be found along streams, beside ponds and in swamps from Delaware south through Texas and as far north as southern Illinois. This tree is a conifer, but unlike other conifers it loses its needlelike leaves every fall. In fact that is why it is called Bald!

 

The wood of this tree is so resistant to rot that in many swampy places from New Jersey through the southeast prehistoric wood has been unearthed and found in still useable condition. This wood is highly prized for making wood carvings, among other things. Early colonists were shown by the Native Americans to hallow out the trunks for making durable canoes, washtubs, and troughs. The freshly harvested wood is used in building construction, fence posts, planking (in boats), river pilings, doors, flooring, shingles, caskets and cabinetry.

 

The woody scent is often favored by men in perfumery, and used in aftershaves and deodorants. In aromatherapy it blends well with Benzoin, bergamot, cardamom, cedarwood, chamomile roman, clary sage, eucalyptus (all), frankincense, geranium, juniper, labdanum, lavender, lemon, lime, mandarin, marjoram, orange, pine, ravensara, rosemary, sandalwood, and tea tree.

 

The cones produce a very sticky resin which is used in the treatment of skin conditions. It is an astringent and balances oily skin and works well on acne. A salve made from the resin is used on rashes and wounds for healing.

 

A symbol of the southern swamp, the Bald Cypress was designated the state tree in Louisiana in 1963.

Lantana – Lantana camara

Lantana
Lantana

This native to the tropics of the western hemisphere causes vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, and labored respiration on ingestion! If large enough quantities are consumed it can even cause death. The leaves may cause dermatitis if handled by someone who is sensitive. The green unripe berries are the culprit, and activated charcoal has proven to be an effective treatment by leaching the triterpenes.

 

In research carried out in India a leaf extract has antimicrobial, fungicidal, and insecticidal effects. Even with the toxicity of the unripe berries, Lantana is used for herbal medicine.

            Leaves: used to treat flu, colds, coughs, fever, yellow fever, dysentery, Jaundice

            Oil: to treat cancers, chicken pox, measles, asthma, ulcers, swellings, eczema, tumors,

            high blood pressure, rheumatism, and malaria

 

A rare Essential Oil is produced through steam distillation of the flowers and leaves. The scent is somewhat reminiscent of Sage dalmatian having a rich green, herbaceous bouquet with a resinous, balsamic undertone. It blends well with Bergamot, Clove, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Patchouli, Clary Sage, Rose, and Jasmine essential oils. In Indian ethnic medicine it has had limited use in treating itchy skin, and minor skin traumas.

 

Even thought the unripe berries are quite toxic, in some areas of the world people do eat the fully ripe, black berries. Upon ripening it is heavily feasted on by birds. There are also other uses…the stems have been used as toothbrushes; the leaves are used to polish wood. The stems and leaves make mulch; and the stems have been used as a fuel for fires for cooking and heating. If handled properly the stems can also be used to produce paper, and the making of baskets.

American Spikenard – Aralia racemose

American Spikenard edible berries beginning to ripen
American Spikenard edible berries beginning to ripen

While the king sitteth at his table,

my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.

A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me;

he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.

 

Song of Solomon 1:12-13 The Christian Bible

 

This native of eastern North America can be found on wooded slopes, and in rich, moist woods. You will often find it growing with other woodlands plants such as Jack in the Pulpit, Wild Ginseng, Bluebells, Trillium, Bloodroot, Christmas Fern, Dutchman’s Breeches, and many others. In Rhode Island it is listed as of Special Concern, and must be treat with care.

 

The roots are very aromatic, with a spicy scent. It has been used to treat all types of lung ailments including coughs, TB, and catarrh (inflammation of the mucous membranes). It has also been used for female complaints such as leucorrhea (vaginal discharge), Prolapse of the uterus, and chlorosis (a form of anemia).

 

The native American Indians used this plant extensively…Potawatomi used the root to make a poultice for treatment of swellings; and the Cherokees drank a decoction of the root for backache. Today it is oft used as an alterative.

 

The roots were often used for making early root beers!

 

In magic use spikenard is grounding, balancing and calming. It is known as ‘herb of the student’ because it increases mental clarity, helping the student to learn, remember and recall more easily the lessons at hand.

Fox Grapes – Vitis labrusca

Fox Grapes cultivar Concord
Fox Grapes cultivar Concord

 

I sit and often wonder about this little grape
How intriguing is it to ponder the structure and taste
I yearn to know more as I taste and revel with mouth agape.
Squeezed just right, and secured for ages to come with no
     great haste….

 

By R.A. Beeman

 

The fruit of the vine, the new wine of the New Testament, grapes and the wines they create have been in favor for centuries! This species is most likely the grape spotted by Leif Ericsson in the 11th century when he explored the north eastern coast of North America (Vinland). There is tons of evidence that this species of grape was growing here on this continent centuries before the European set foot here. This particular grape is the source of the cultivars Catawba, Concord, Niagara, Isabella, and Delaware!

 

The all important cultural crop, Concord grapes (from which the famous jelly is made), was first breed from wild seeds by Ephraim Bull in Concord, Massachusetts in the 19th century.

 

The grape or telvladi was used by the Cherokee Indians As a blood medicine, and antidiarrheal, a gynecological aid, and a liver aid, among other things. The Iroquois used a decoction of the roots to aid horses in fertility resulting in conception.

 

The Cherokee also used the fruit mashed with sour grape, pokeberry juice, sugar and cornmeal as a juice to drink. It was also used to make dumplings!

 

The flowers and fruit of the grape are very beneficial to wildlife, with many insects and birds drawing nourishment from it. Bumblebees, honeybees, digger bees and long-tongued bees pollinate the flowers and collect pollen from the flowers. Other insects eat leaves of suck juices from the plant.

 

Many birds like the ruffed grouse, bobwhite; northern flicker, crow, and cardinal to name a few eat the fruit, and help in the spread of the plant by dropping the seeds with their feces. Many of these same birds use the dense vines for hiding places and to nest in. Some birds will even use the bark to help in nest building.

 

White tailed deer also find the leaves and stems delectable.

 

Oil which is obtained from the grape seed is used in cosmetics, and aromatherapy massage oils. It is easily absorbed into the skin without excess greasiness. It is light and thin, leaving a glossy sheen to the skin. It helps in maintains skin moisture.

To check out other uses for grapes read my first post here