Mistletoe

When I was a small girl, we didn’t keep many traditions in our family. But having a Christmas tree and mistletoe was a must. I loved colorful lights and gifts, as well as the scent of fresh needles, but I didn’t care why people cut trees and moved them into their homes.

However I was curious about the mistletoe. Where does it grow and why does it look like a bird’s nest? What are the white mini-balls? And why people paint the mistletoe with gold or silver color? Isn’t green good enough for holiday’s decoration?

My mother patiently explained to me that the mistletoe grows high in the trees, so it’s not easy to get it. It symbolizes happiness, health and prosperity, which is also not easy to get. And some people are painting mistletoe silver or gold to increase the probability that it happens.

Much later I learned that mistletoe belongs to the medicinal plants and that people from ancient times attributed extraordinary and even magical qualities to it. I always felt great respect for the mistletoe, but my curiosity was always stopped by the knowledge that this plant is poisonous. Plus there were plenty of other plants I could play with.

Of course I noticed several nests of mistletoe in my neighborhood – high in the trees, difficult to access. Exactly how my mother said. But recently, I found mistletoe on the path, fell down in windy weather. It reminded me, that although happiness or prosperity seems to be far away, sometimes the opportunity falls down right under our feet. Then it depends if we catch it and make use of it.

I picked it from the path, brought it home and drew picture of mistletoe with the bird, responsible for spreading seeds of it. I hope you like it, and I double hope it brings you happiness, health and prosperity as my mother promised 🍀

Happy holidays!

Ivana

Pink beauty for healthy lungs

It looks that spring is finally ready to manifest itself! Despite strong frosts and snowfall recently, sunshine calls nature to start unrolling buds. Even though it’s too early, I’ve been already checking my places and searching signs of new life among dry and brown last year’s leaves.

First what I’m looking each spring for, are wonderful flowers of Lungwort. I’m hungry for the moment when I see the incredible tenderness of pink and purple. In my daily life I always prefer yellow before pink, but the first spring flowers of Lungwort are probably the only exception.

I really love the unique colors of Lungwort, sweet to look and also sweet and juicy to taste. It’s like a promise that the whole season could be such sweet and delicious. Once I discover the first Lungwort flowers of the year, I gather them directly to my mouth and eat them immediately 😋

My second choice for Lungwort flowers is still eating them directly, but in more civilized way like adding them into salad or put them on potatoes with cottage cheese. It looks and tastes fantastic!

Lungwort belongs to the plants that bloom before their leaves grow fully. So you can enjoy the beauty and taste of flowers before serious harvest for healing purpose. And there is one big purpose of the Lungwort, clear by the name, the healthy lungs!

Lungwort has strong anticarrhal and demulcent effects, so you can successfully use it in case of cold with cough. It reduces unwanted mucus caused by pathogens and protects irritated tissues. The content of silicon and allantoin accelerates skin regeneration, so the Lungwort can be also used externally for longterm wounds even with pus. But the most common use of Lungwort is still in wide range of lung diseases like bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, etc.

Even though the Lungwort looks so useful and kind, there is one warning for all who have problems with blood coagulation (clotting) because the Lungwort slightly increases the level of it. A few fresh flowers should be fine, but be careful about longterm use.

I hope to see the pink and purple flowers soon and this year herbal season will really start!

Which plant is the sign of spring for you?

With love, Ivana

Herbal magic for healthy hair

There are many useful herbs to improve quality of your hair. I took an example of my local herbs, divided in groups according to the type of hair. I’ve been testing them by myself and few of my friends.

Blond and/or thin

The key herb of the group is definitely Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla) from the family Asteraceae. Trying to sense the energy, it makes clear that Chamomile brings a floral softness and asterisk lightness into the hair. Don’t expect hair thickening from it! Chamomile is proud of its gentle quality and ready to share.

Other herbs could make a good company to Chamomile. Usually I choose a birch leaf or linden blossom. Both of them are a good companion for another group of hair too.

Red and/or middle

The leading herb of this group is hops, either alone or processed in beer. At least in Europe, using beer for strong and shiny hair has a long tradition. Try to imagine growing hops (Humulus lupulus) and you will see long lianas, richly covered by leaves and small green cones called strobili. They are highly aromatic, full of useful components for your hair and skin. No wonder, hops belongs to the family Cannabaceae and is completely legal worldwide.

Longterm use of hops makes your hair thicker (like lianas) and your scalp healthier. But it doesn’t make sense to use it for really thin hair. It seems to me that the strong aroma of hops and fullness of the compounds are too hard (aggressive) for thin hair.

Birch could be a reasonable support for thin hair thickening and is a good companion for hops too. If you imagine birch tree (Betula spp) you will see long but light branches with small, heart shaped leaves. The birch has a beautiful and lifted hairstyle and you can achieve that for thin and middle hair.

Rich look of your hairstyle could be also supported by linden blossoms (valid for thin and thin/middle hair). If you imagine a flowering linden tree (Tilia spp), it will be clear to you. At the time of flowering the linden tree increases its volume and beauty. Blossoms shine with color and scent, attracting attention of bees and humans. It can work for you in the same way – except of insects 😃

Dark and/or thick

This is the group of hair with a good quality, sometimes too strong or thick to style them. Could you imagine a plant with a similar energy other than nettle? The nettle has tiny stingy hairs in huge amount and is ready to share the same quality with you.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is the leader of the group and it is probably the most famous herb for a hair promotion. But as I have mentioned several times, for some hair (or hair skin) types, the nettle is too rough. For example, my scalp every time turns red after using nettles and it doesn’t matter whether it was in a decoction or processed in soap. The stinging power of nettle is simply too strong for me.

In case your hair isn’t extremely thick or you have a problem with nettle, a suitable alternative for you could be the wild thyme. The purple color of its flowers is a good guide where to use this herb. Disinfecting aroma helps to remove toxins from hair and scalp, and sometimes also from the mind beneath. I like adding the wild thyme for the red hair blends in the winter when they need more protection.

Method

You can easily prepare decoction (like more concentrated tea) and rinse your hair after washing. Or you can even wash your hair with a special soap that contains a suitable blend of herbs. And because it is much more comfortable, I prepare such soaps at home from the herbs I personally gather. Then it is a great pleasure to wash my hair.

I must say that it might be tricky to choose the right combination for chemically colored hair. They usually don’t cooperate well with herbal soaps, decoctions could be fine.

My originally red hairs (treated with henna) are more than happy with the herbal soap (hops, birch, linden blossoms) for more than two years. Even my hairdresser confirmed improvement of their quality.

I’m curious about your experience if you like to share it.

With love, Ivana

Healthy heart and blood vessels: Hawthorn

In this season, colorful fruits are ripening on thorny shrubs and trees, and the harvest of rose hips and haws is ongoing. I have already written about wild roses Wild Rose: Beauty among thorns, so today I focus on the hawthorn and even experimental products from it.

This year I’ve heard a strong call from hawthorn since blooming. Usually I’m not a big fan of hawthorn flowers because I don’t consider their odor to be quite pleasant even though hawthorn belongs to the same family as roses. Perhaps the hawthorn is a proof that not every rose must smell wonderful.

Listening to my call, I gathered hawthorn flowers and made a tincture or something between tincture and liqueur. Guided by intuition, I added a tincture from fresh roses to the hawthorn basis. Now, the result should harmonize heart on both, physical and emotional levels. Definitely it tastes great!

As soon as the first fruits became ripe, my intuition brought another input. Make vinegar! The rational part wasn’t against. There is enough sugar inside, the taste is similar to apple, and most of the effective substances can act from acidic environment. Since the vinegar preparation takes several weeks, my haws are still in the process of fermentation. Comparing with the apple vinegar, so far the haws are doing very well!  Perhaps vinegar could be another way how to use hawthorn for healthy heart and blood vessels. I would appreciate your experience if you have any.

Being inspired by Lydia with her Pear butter, I tried to make “hawthorn butter”. Since the first moment, it was even challenging or stupid idea. Although the taste of haws is similar to apple, the size is much smaller, and there is a stone inside! Finally I succeeded, but I don’t want to repeat it again! Pitting took ages and proved amount of yellow flavonoids, which has remained on my fingers up to day.

It might seem like I’m already fed up with hawthorn. However in my kitchen is still sitting another bowl of haws, which I gathered yesterday. So far I don’t know what to do with them, but they didn’t want to stay on tree!

Do you have any suggestion? Thanks for sharing.

With love, Ivana

When the swallows return and fly away: Celandine

In my language, Celandine (Chelidonium majus) is more like swallow-wort, which is one of the common names in English as well. I was curious why. What do the swallows have in common with this yellow flower? Perhaps except the shape of swallow’s tail – this could remind on a distance the shape of Celandine’s capsules with seeds. Is it enough?

Then I found a simple connection in books. They say that Celandine has a pretty long period of flowering. It starts at the time of returning the swallows and it’s finished when they fly away to the warm regions. To be honest, I was disappointed with this explanation. I would expect something more sophisticated from books.

So I came back to life, back to my childhood, to my first memories with Celandine. I still remember mom, telling me that this plant grows abundantly in places where people urinate a lot. Of course, Celandine is a widespread plant, but notice that it often grows in dark alleys around pubs or in distant corners of gardens and around paths. Mom is always right 😊

I don’t know if it was an intention, but with this idea, mom took out my liking to taste the plant. And that was also right, because the whole plant is poisonous. Celandine belongs to the poisonous plants with medicinal effects and it is safer not to experiment with it.

The main constituents of Celandine come from the group of alkaloids. Some of them are on the opiate basis – similar to morphine and that’s probably reason why Celandine belongs to the same family as poppy (Papaveraceae). Other alkaloids are toxins or neurotoxins and they have the ability to directly kill the tissue cells. And some of them are healing such as yellow berberin, which is also present in turmeric and is responsible for many of its healing features. With professional supervision Celandine can be very effective especially for liver and gallbladder. Otherwise you can carefully try external application.

Traditionally, the yellow-orange latex from Celandine stem is recommended against warts. Again, be careful! The nice colored latex is kind of corrosive and this is how it works. If it was a harmless juice, the warts would remain on the skin even after many times repeated application. Some people may be sensitive, and touching the latex can cause them red itchy spots on the skin. Then it’s better to avoid this plant.

Do you have your own experience with it? I once drank homemade liqueur from a mixture of herbs including Celandine and was excellent! Looking forward to your tips and experiences.

With love, Ivana

Myrtle: Freshness of Love

In the place where I live, myrtle doesn’t grow except of gardens because it needs human protection during the winter months. Myrtle comes from southern countries around Mediterranean Sea and belongs to plants that were significant from ancient times.

Myrtle contains a high percentage of volatile oils mostly based on camphor, pine and lemon. Together it makes a very fresh scent to which you are almost magically attracted. That fact has been used for ages in fragrance oils for both, religious and secular purposes.

The ancient Greeks dedicated myrtle to the goddess of beauty and love, to Aphrodite. They had number of rituals with myrtle about purity, love and marriage. Some of them are still alive, they have become a tradition. In my country, no one can imagine a wedding without myrtle.

The newlyweds, each of the wedding guests and even the wedding cars are decorated by myrtle along with a white bow – both as a symbol of purity and fresh love. In some families, newly married couples put a young myrtle tree at their home. They say that marriage will be successful as long as the myrtle grows well.

Sometimes, myrtle grows too well, and then it’s better to shape it by trimming. The relationship should be also shaped, right?

Do not throw away what you cut. You can easily prepare the fragrance oil at home when you put myrtle into the carrier oil (olive, kernel apricot, etc.) and let it macerate for a few weeks. Later, when you have the myrtle oil on your body, you will feel the power of beauty and love like Aphrodite and no one will resist you 😊

Do you have any experience with myrtle – as a plant or as a symbol? Do you have any tradition with myrtle in your country?

With love, Ivana

Walnut tree: Faithful and Reliable Friend

Walnut tree (Juglans regia) is a friendly tree, living close to people and having its own brain. How to call the nuts and their specific shape otherwise? I see them as small brains, enclosed in hard shells just as human brain is locked in the skull. Additionally, consumption of walnuts brings great benefits especially to our brain.

Even though I am excited walnut consumer, I mostly harvest walnut leaves for further processing. I like the young ones, still soft and little bit brown with intensive unmistakable aroma. They are the promise of all that a massive tree is preparing for that year.

Basic energy of them is warm. I sense it like warm arms of a friend, always ready for hug to make you comfortable. It calms your nerves because you suddenly feel better, more secure. As if somebody lights a fireplace in the middle of winter storm.

And because walnut leaves have a repellent capability, you can be more secure with them even in physical reality.

The most common use of walnut leaves is a tea. I like the specific taste and my blood vessel appreciates the effects. However it is still warming herb, so don’t drink it in such a tropical weather as we have in these days with us.

I love to make and use herbal soaps with walnut leaves because of their almost chocolate color and high skin care ability, which perfectly works also for problematic skin with itchy eczema or fungi. Even in the intimate area!

In the form of homemade salve or ointment, walnut leaves help with similar skin diseases. Among other herbs, I do use walnut leaves for the foot care. Why? First of all, the warming effect is mostly desirable. Second, adstringent effect helps reduce sweating. Last but not least, there is the evergreen of antifungal components, which might be a great prevention too.

There is much more left about walnut, I would appreciate your opinion and/or experience.

With love, Ivana

A visit from another world: The Male Fern

From my childhood, dense growth of ferns made me feel there are very mystic. They look like bounded shelter where monsters or other fairy-tale creatures can live and hide their secrets. I always felt respect, and was a little prepared to run away.

Still I see that the ferns are extraordinary and not entirely understandable. It seems to me they belong to different dimension or different time-space. They are like history that has refused to undergo evolution.

My favorite fern is the male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas). At the first glance, it is proud and bushy, combining ancient wisdom with feathery lightness. Juicy green calls for biting, but it is better to resist such temptation. The male fern is poisonous.

For safety reasons it is rarely used today. But I have experience and very good results with the male fern’s tincture in removing some internal parasites, especially from the digestive system.  It is still valid, that careful use of poison can have significant healing effects.

Those who do not want to treat poisonous aspects can only watch and admire this plant. The fern certainly deserves it. Do you also think so?

With love, Ivana

Between Life and Death: Poisonous Ivy

For me, Ivy has always symbolized something mysterious. And if I had to tell where I mostly see to grow Ivy, it is a cemetery for sure. There are many old trees, providing a shady retreat for grieving, and around their trunks grow layers of Ivy. The abundance and symbolism stand out especially in the autumn.

Colorful leaves fall from the trees as well as the youth gradually leaves our physical body. But Ivy remains green despite of frost as well as the soul is able to cross the gate of physical death. For me, Ivy is a symbol of rebirth and a new beginning.

I remember one day a few years ago when I walked to a cemetery just because of Ivy. I felt so strong calling to go there, so I did. I spent few hours in contemplation at the cemetery, where did not rest any of my friends or relatives. And when I returned home, I found unexpected dismissal in my mailbox. I was so sorry, but all the Ivy at the cemetery helped me to better accept this situation. Suddenly I knew deeply in my heart, that this end is simply a door to a new beginning. And it was.

Perhaps I have a strong connection to Ivy because of the name. My first name is Ivana and Ivy is one of possible short versions of it. And if you ask, I don’t mind that Ivy is poisonous. Even I know how to be poisonous. And no wonder, I am born under Scorpio sign. In addition, I am well aware that a lot of poisonous substances are healing. As well as Ivy and maybe sometimes like me and like my doing.

I fully believe that not only sweet and harmonious are important in the life. We can be greatly enriched by what we fear, and from what we run away.

Power of Butterbur

In my language, name of Butterbur sounds like 9 powers. This clearly demonstrates how effective and respectable plant Butterbur is.

Additionally to the healing effects, Butterbur is amazing plant. In the early spring, still in the snow, you can see around small water streams purple flower heads of Butterbur. They look fabulous. I have to admire them every year. You might think they have to be hard and tough when grown in snow. Be careful, they are easily breakable and full of cold water. I love to keep this fresh spring beauty in alcohol as a tincture because it helps preventively in time of cold and flu.

The most popular part for healing is root of Butterbur. And the best harvesting time is either in the early spring or in the late autumn, it means now! When you slice washed root and place pieces to dry, they look like magical rings of irregular shapes which can be created only by nature. Powdered root of Butterbur can be used directly or inside of tincture depending on type of healing.

Pay special attention to leaves of Butterbur. They are huge like umbrellas and often occupy large territory, so it is hard to pass through. They are very juicy and no wonder. Look at the leaf in detail and you will see large veins for water and nutrients transport. And this is how they work on human body. Because of juicy consistence Butterbur leaves represent effective skin treatment. All healing substances are quickly delivered to the right destination. You can use it directly without any complicate preparation. Just put slightly damaged leaves on affected area and you will see a miracle soon.

For me, density of robust veins inside of Butterbur leaves means a clear hint. They are more than useful for treatment of varicose veins and helpful in arteries unblocking.

Butterbur is also effective in releasing spasm of nervous origin, so you can imagine veins of the plant as healthy nerve fibers. No tension, no obstacles. That’s why some people use remedies based on Butterbur in treatment of migraine and headache. Luckily, at this point I don’t have any personal experience. What about you? Do you have any experience or impressions with Butterbur?