The Body in
The Theraputic Attributes of Herbs for Summer
Barbara Tanner Douglass
Ah, Summer, arriving chock full of those lazy, crazy, hazy days.
From Midsummer Nights Eve through the Autumnal Equinox we all become kids
again, playing hard and throwing caution to the wind, living life at our physical
peak. How wondrous Mother Earth is to provide us with many nutritious herbs that
we may move through the season with ease.
Summer encompasses the signs of Cancer (June 21-July 21), Leo (July 22-August
22) and Virgo (August 23-September 22). Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and parsley
(Petroselinum crispum) are two building herbs with high mineral content to provide
us with nutrients to live with grace through the summer heat and stress.
I have seen zodiac/herb correspondences that list honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
and chickweed (Stellaria media) as herbs good for the Cancer cycle or those with
planets in Cancer. Honeysuckle might help us stop whining and take responsibility
for our feelings. It is great for the entire respiratory system and Chinese herbalists
consider it the primary respiratory herb. Mother Nature fortified honeysuckle
flowers with 20 antiseptic compounds, so it is good to take on less than clean
summer outings. Chickweed is great for the extra weight Cancerians may carry.
The leaves are also used for skin irritations and the mineral-rich roots cool
fevers. It may be growing in the lawn and can be eaten raw in salads or steamed.
When harvesting herbs in the wild, be very clear that you are harvesting the
correct herb. Many plants look alike.
Leo herbs include St. Johns wort (Hypericum perforatum) and bay laurel
(Laurus nobilus). When plagues ravaged Europe, the nobility (and who is more
noble than a Leo?) left the cities, retreating to the laurel-lined walkways on
their villas and estates. They trusted that laurel leaves would protect them
from plague toxins. A building herb with antiseptic and antibacterial properties,
bay laurel was effective. Today, many cooks know to place a bay laurel leaf in
flour jars to deter mealy bugs. Leos love knowing that Julius Caesar and other
Roman statesmen earned garlands of bay laurel for their heads after giving impressive
speeches in the Senate.
St. Johns wort is good for insect bites and viruses and is helpful with
mild depression, making it an appropriate herb at summers end; there may
be a bit of sadness as Autumn beckons. St. Johns wort may increase sun
sensitivity, so those using it would do well to apply plenty of sunscreen. People
taking prescription drugs must read about St. Johns wort before taking
Virgo herbs include dill (Anethum graveolens) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra).
Dill works wonders for digestion, bad breath and colic. During late August and
September, we find that what we sent out into the world during late March and
April now returns to us some find that the return is hard to digest. Dill is
most helpful when eating crow. Licorice is useful as a building herb for myriad
concerns, from adrenals to heartburn, even baldness. Licorice represents the
balancing and analytical aspects of Virgo, offering widespread and balanced assistance
within the body and self. Those with blood sugar concerns would find it helpful
to research licorice before ingesting it.
Herbs, Sun and Fun
Summer brings beach excursions and celebrations from Fourth of July to Labor
Day. Sunburn happens and black tea (Camellia sinensis) is great for red bodies.
Placing wet tea bags on sensitive areas or making a gallon of tea and pouring
it into tepid bath water may ease pain and speed healing. Aloe (Aloe vera) is
helpful for all burns and, short of carrying a few leaves from a plant, a tube
of aloe gel works wonders on burns, especially when applied often. Avoiding sunburn
altogether is best. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) helps desensitize skin to the
suns rays. Repeated use is important as drinking one cup of tea while sitting
in the sun wont help much. Id use both sunscreen and green tea.
Those living in the Southwest use a lot of yucca (Yucca baccata). A day-long
outdoor adventure in Arizona finds natives taking 8-12 yucca capsules in one
day to beat the heat. A tube of aloe gel applied to the skin also helps prevent
body dehydration. For high activity in such climes or high humidity climates,
capsules of capsicum or cayenne pepper (Capsicum annua) or ginger (Zingiber officinale)
can give bodies more energy during the heat. Increased energy in the incredible
heat is one reason Mexican foods are highly spiced.
Protection from insect bites Ay, theres the rub. Two
indispensable products are Tei Fu® and Black Ointment®, available in
health food stores. Tei Fu® is a tiny bottle with a blend of essential oils,
easy to slip in pocket, purse or backpack. Applied immediately and directly to
a bite, itching ceases. Black Ointment® is in a plastic container and draws
toxins out of wounds and bites. Two gnat bites created egg sized bumps and, within
24 hours of frequent ointment application, both lumps were reduced to the size
of a tiny pea.
Protection from insects: Repelling the insects is more fun than dealing with
bites. To avoid flies, basil (Ocimum basilicum) leaves may be crushed and wiped
over arms and exposed areas of skin. Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) will reject
some critters when applied externally. Keeping up with daily intake of B vitamins
seems to deter mosquitoes. Essential oil of clove in a carrier oil repels various
insects, but is not suitable for tiny kids or pregnant women. A citronella-scented
geranium plant has little effect on a garden, deck or terrace area, though it
is highly touted. It helps to crush some leaves to release more oils and wipe
them on the back of chairs and edges of the table for a stronger effect in the
Protection from plants: Jewel weed (Impatiens capensis) is a great friend. It
grows near poison ivy and is the antidote. A handful of leaves, crushed and wiped
quickly on the skin of affected or suspected areas, makes for a more pleasant
day in the wilds. A friend once felt stinging on her bare legs in a wooded area.
She retraced her steps but found no poison ivy. She crushed a handful of jewel
weed, just in case and upon application, the stinging stopped immediately. No
welts or irritation emerged.
Protection from relatives: Family reunions may bring stress and some choose to
take catnip tea or a valerian capsule before attending, in case Uncle Fred or
Aunt Wilhemina are in rare form. Any lemon herb is helpful, and essential oil
of lemon may ease anxiety and assist blood pressure and a sense of well being.
Because it might increase sun sensitivity, it may be better to keep the oil on
a cotton ball in a handkerchief in a pocket, rather than applying it to the skin.
All essential citrus oils are irritating to the skin and need to be placed in
a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil, or in aloe vera gel before applying
to the skin. A general rule is to add about 15 drops to a tablespoonful of oil.
Another nice attribute of lemon oil is its antibacterial property.
To add joy to the reunion table, an herbal bouquet with a pair of scissors nearby
allows the crowd to add herbs of their choice to salads. It is interesting that
many herbs are at their peak in early Cancer, the most domestic sign of the zodiac.
Fire Element Season:
Circulatory, Small Intestine, Endocrine
The Fire Element is in full swing as summer begins and continues until the beginning
of August. All the rigid energy of the Wood Element Spring season now burns up
easy to see with the increased activity and heat that summer brings. In
this season, our hearts are wide open and we are at the zenith of physical activity,
stepping out to share our self. The circulatory system, small intestine and endocrine
system, the various fires within the body, all cleanse and rebuild now.
The circulatory system utilizes capsicum, hawthorn berries (Crataegus sp.) and
butchers broom (Ruscus aculeates), all important herbs for this system.
Capsicum or cayenne pepper assists the whole system, especially heart and capillaries.
Cayenne is hot and some people eat food when taking more than two capsules at
once. For the brave, it may be used on food or in cooking. Others find capsicum
capsules a godsend to put heat into the body without burning the mouth. Hawthorn
builds heart muscle and, not surprisingly, has fair amounts of magnesium, calcium
and selenium. Butchers broom is the herb of choice to support veins. Valerian
is beneficial for blood pressure and arrhythmia. While building circulation,
affirmations such as The love of the universe flows easily through me now
or Love easily flows through me and out to the world assist the system.
More information on the Fire Element season can be found in my
article on Spring.
The small intestine is the most scrambled organ of the body as it weaves back
and forth deep in our midsection. We digest protein here and, due to its shape,
it is an amazing trap for undigested food. Marshmallow (Althea officinale) and
pepsin is a great combination to cleanse and rebuild the small intestine. Many
people use this combination beyond the Fire Element season, as the small intestine
takes many moons to cleanse. The cleansing nature of thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
also benefits the small intestine and thyme antioxidants make it a great herb
for cooking. The small intestine might like to hear, I easily digest and
absorb the life and ideas I choose. My life nourishes me in fabulous ways.
The endocrine system governs many body functions. Alfalfa is a great building
herb for the pineal and pituitary glands. Rose hips (Rosa rugosa) assist the
thymus. Kelp (Fucus versiculosus) strengthens the thyroid, though those with
blood pressure concerns would be wise to read about kelp before using it. Parsley
is superb to build and support the adrenals and the added blessing is that this
nutrient rich herb acts as a diuretic as well. Handfuls are great in salads and
taboule is a great cooling and parsley-rich summer dish. Reproductive glands
were covered in my Winter article.
Here is a point to remember when using building herbs. When we build our body
and self with herbs, at a certain point the organ or system finally has enough
energy that it begins to cleanse itself on its own.
Earth Element Season:
Spleen, Pancreas, Stomach
As the fire of summer burns out, the ashes left behind become the earth. One
attribute of ashes is their alkaline nature. The acid soil of eastern North America
needs alkaline amendments. An alkaline body is a healthy body another
reason to eat alkaline veggies. If you have chosen to grow some herbs this year,
a few harvesting tips are at the bottom of the sidebar at the right. I find the
herbs grown on the plot of earth we share work to assist my body and self better
than herbs grown elsewhere, as they are the most attuned to me. I have tested
herbs and oils grown at perfect high altitudes, in pure air and still find the
herbs grown here test the strongest for me. How could it be otherwise? We love
Moving into the Earth Element season, the body moves from the circulatory system
focus to cleansing the organ that works with the blood. The spleen now activates
and various blood cleaners assist the spleen to cleanse and rebuild. Red clover
(Trifolium pratense) is a great blood purifier and may be harvested during the
summer and stored in glass jars until the Earth Element season. Fresh blossoms
add great color and taste to salads and muffins. A European friend makes red
clover blossom sandwiches for her children as an after school treat. Clover is
best picked in pesticide free areas, well away from the road. Red clover is widely
available in capsule, extract and bulk form. It also contains genistein, which
inhibits blood from nourishing tumors, a rather comforting thought.
The stomach is assisted by digestion building herbs including ginger, papaya
(Carica papaya) safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
and peppermint. Digestion aiding peppermint inspires and flavors after dinner
mints. Pancreas herbs are many. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) or blueberry
leaf (Vaccinium sp.) may build and cleanse to help lower blood sugar, and yarrow
(Achillea millefolium), garlic (Allium sativum), juniper berries (Juniperis sp.)
and uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) are great pancreatic support. A building
and cleansing herb combination to raise blood sugar includes licorice, safflower,
dandelion and horseradish (Cochlearia armoracia).
With the Earth Element Season, we have come full circle. For more complete coverage
of the Earth Element Season herbs, please refer
my article on Autumn. Herbs mentioned there, Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia,
are great blood and lymph cleaners, good for short term use. Information recently
appearing in various newspapers and magazines would deter those with compromised
immune systems from using the echinaceas at all. For short term use, it is a
great herb. Those with compromised immune systems might choose the Peruvian herb
anamu (Mercura hembra) to enhance their immune systems. The leaves also assist
the structural system, including joints.
I find it interesting and entertaining to watch the organized public relations
campaign to stop people from taking charge of their own health. Articles seem
to be appearing with great frequency that hold many cautions about herbs. The
large problem with the public using herbs is that they are using them in an allopathic
fashion to treat a disease or condition. A second problem is that herb
companies are legally prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from
listing on products the herb uses, cautions, even suggested amounts to take.
Herbs are considered foods and not any help with health by the FDA. Also, people
are not taking the initiative and reading about the herbs they take in books
available in health food stores. I enjoy reading these articles and notice who
is quoted, what profession they are in and what they stand to lose if people
are reading about herbs and taking charge of their health.
The purpose of this series on health herbs has been to assist people in working
with herbs in an easy, harmonious, healthy and preventive mode, moving naturally
with the seasons and the body as it cleanses and rebuilds, as our ancestors did.
Love, great gratitude and praise are extended to those who have helped achieve
this purpose: the Creator and Mother Nature for providing the herbs; Mother Earth
for nurturing them and allowing them to grow on her; the wondrous healthy presence
of the herbs that have taught me so much; Sandra and David, for providing the
space, love, encouragement and brilliant editing of this information; my late
husband, Howard, who lovingly assisted with the art; you who read this digest,
in all of your radiant presence. Thank you so much. From your comments, letters
and phone calls, the purpose has been met. Many blessings to you on your path.
All Rights Reserved
The information given here does not directly or indirectly constitute medical
advice. Any disease problems should be directed to a qualified health care practitioner.
Neither the author nor the publishers assume any liability for your personal
choices or actions.]
Barbara Tanner Douglass
owns Elizabeth's Garden in the rolling hills on Ohio's North Coast. An
ordained minister and herb enthusiast, she is a frequent speaker and teacher
on herbs and spiritual growth.
Additionally, Barbara facilitates transformational healing experiences
through Ro-Hun® and other techniques, coaches on holistic and herbal
living and sometimes tends her extensive herb gardens.
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Harvest herbs when the plant energy is in the part desired. Roots are harvested
in early Spring or late Fall. Leaves are harvested as the first flower forms,
to be sure leaves are at peak. Harvest flowers as they begin to open, with
the exception of calendula, chives, rose, mints and nasturtium, which all are
Herbs are best harvested in the morning of the second sunny day after dew has
dried. Talk to the plants the day before harvest, explain the need and thank
the plant before cutting, offering a gift of some kind. In the wild, I always
speak with the chief plant of a stand to ask permission before harvesting and
I always leave some seeds, roots and plants untouched to perpetuate the stand
for future years harvests. Cut the parts desired and take inside to dry
or freeze. Prune the plants to shape later. With many perennial herbs, it is
best to leave one-third of the plant.
Weeds for Salads
Red clover blossoms, chickweed, dandelion, evening primrose, plantain, watercress
and purslane leaves are an interesting mix of fresh herbs. Stinging nettle
and lambs quarters leaves could be cooked, cooled and added to the mix.
Atop a salad, they add a zesty tang, are mineral rich and assist in weight
This recipe, replete with thyme, creates an herbal oyle enabling us to see
the faeries. Applied to the body, including the third eye, the oyle works,
though I confess to sometimes seeing faeries without the oyle. There is no
better time to see and converse with the faeries than on Midsummer Nights
Eve. For the courageous, the recipe herewith follows.
To Enable One to See Faeries
[Take] a pint of sallet oyle and put it into a vial glasse and first wash it
with rose-water and marygold [Calendula officinalis] water* the flowers to
be gathered towards the east. Wash it till the oyle becomes white, then put
into the glasse, and then put thereto the budds of hollyhocke, the flowers
of marygolde, the flowers or toppes of wild thyme, the buds of young hazle,
and the thyme must be gathered near the side of a hill where faeries used to
be and take the grasse of a faerie throne then all these put into the oyle
in the glasse and sette it to dissolve three dayes in the sunne and keep it
for thy use.
A recipe dated 1600, found in
the Ashmolean Museum,
Oxford, England in l971
*The oil would be washed with rosewater for antiseptic purposes and to open
the heart. Calendula water would be added to make the oil healthy and nutritious
for the skin.