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Sorry, I have not been able to find any connection to those puffy white confections we all know as marshmallows, except that the powdered roots mixed with water make a fluffy paste. If you know of any such folklore, please let me know! Marshmallows proper (Althaea officinalis) grow wild in the eastern part of this United States, but there are many species that grow wild in our neighborhood. The most common garden variety is the Hollyhock, and it can be used as marshmallow in the following treatments. Marshmallows possess the highest concentrations of mucilage, polysaccharides, asparagin and tannins of the group. I grow both Hollyhocks and Marshmallow at our organic farm. Externally, it is good for wounds, burns, boils and skin ulceration. Marshmallow and Hollyhocks grow about three feet tall, with pretty hibiscus like flowers in pinks, white and purple. They will thrive in any soil or situation, but grows larger in moist than in dry soil, and can be cultivated in any unused, wet ground. I like to grow them as a background in borders. Although the flowers and leaves can be used, the roots have the most nutrients, are thick, long and tapering, very tough and pliant. They are white and fibrous inside. Most of the Mallows have been used as food. It is boiled first and then fried with onions and butter. Remember that when you are lost in the woods! It can be raised from seed, or divisions made from the roots. The leaves and flowers are picked in August, the root is harvested in the fall and winter. Marshmallow water is made by soaking one ounce of roots in four cups of cold water, then simmering down to three cups. Strain through loosely woven cloth to keep as much muclilage as possible. This decoction can be used for inflammations of the mucous membranes: gastritis, esiphagitis, enteritis, peptic ulcers, hiatus hernia and for urinary inflammations such as cystitis. The result of these preparations is a gummy paste, great to use as a poultice externally, and soothing for sore throats and stomachaches when taken internally. Leaves may be used in a tea to soothe and heal bronchial and urinary disorders. They are expectorant, diuretic and demulcent. Try growing some of these pretty, easy plants. Look for them as weeds in your garden! Identify what you have before using medicinally. Harvest roots and make your preparations in the fall to ease colds and flu this winter. The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Penelope Ody, DK Books, 1993 A Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieve, Dover, 1971 Prescription for Herbal Healing, Phyllis Balch, Avery, 2002 NRCS Plants database images Disclaimer: Herbal medicine and teas, as a method of healing, are not recognized in the USA. Lynn Cochrane makes no health claims. Any herbal or tea information is not intended to treat, diagnose, or prescribe in any way, and is for informational purposes only. She does not take responsibility for your experience using them. She trusts that you will consult a licensed healthcare professional when appropriate, especially pregnant women, nursing mothers, anyone over 60 years of age, anyone under 12 years of age, or anyone with a serious medical condition.
It is likely that the Hawthorn trees found locally in parks and yards will be Crataegus oxyacantha, English Hawthorn. However, the Downy Hawthorn (Crataegus mollis) is native to central North America, so it may be found growing as a native in Montana. Cratagegus odoratissima has an agreeable scent when flowering and is used as a fruit. A member of the Rose family, Hawthorns are known for clusters of pretty, white flowers and for showy fruit that looks like tiny apples in summer and fall. I have often collected the fruits to use for color in potpourri. The leaves are three lobed, with indentations resembling an oak leaf. It grows more like a shrub, multi-branched with thorny branches. It is a very hardy shrub, and species are able to grow in Zones 2 and up. Hawthorns make great hedges, and have been used as such in England and Germany for over a thousand years. European tradition regards the tree as sacred, having furnished the Crown of Thorns for Jesus. It makes an excellent fuel, making the hottest wood fire known. Evidence of benefit of Hawthorn compounds that support the heart and circulatory system are numerous. It is used at the beginning stages of heart disease, for mild heart muscle weakness, pressure and tightness in the chest, and to speed recovery from heart attack. Substances in Hawthorn interact with key enzymes in the heart to increase the pumping force of the muscle. By dilating the blood vessels, more oxygen rich blood gets to the heart to relieve chest pressure and tightness. Hawthorn’s action develops slowly, though. The flowers contain more cardiac influencing properties than the berries. Because of circulatory benefits, Hawthorn is good for arthritis and osteoporosis, in stabilizing the collagen in cartilage and bone. Extracts of Crataegus laevigata or oxycantha relieve restlessness and anxiety in children with ADD. Benefits for capillaries make Hawthorn a useful treatment for bloodshot eyes, swollen ankles and varicose veins. Leukemia and cancer patients benefit from compounds that deactivate plasmin, a chemical that allows cancerous tumors to spread through the body. Fatigue caused by Lupus is reduced when using Hawthorne extracts. FLOWERING TOPS: As an infusion for cardiac disorders, use 1 oz. of dried flowers, or 2.5 ounces of fresh flowers, in 2 cups of water taken off the boil (not boiling). Put the herb in a pot with a close fitting lid (such as a teapot). Pour hot water over the herb. Infuse for 10 minutes, then pour through a strainer into a teacup; store the rest in a pitcher in a cool place. Ingest ½ cup, three times a day. Make a fresh pot daily. Tincture: Use 1 cup of alcohol (Everclear is best) to 3 cups of distilled water. Put 20 oz. fresh flowers, or 7 oz. dried herb into a large jar with 1 quart of tincture base and cover with the mixture. Seal the jar and store in a cool place for two weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter. Store in clean, dark glass bottles. Ingest one oz. (two tablespoons) three times a day. As with most horticultural varieties of plants, isn’t it a gift that this pretty landscaping tree is so good for us? Bibliography: The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Penelope Ody, DK Books, 1993 The Woman’s Herbal, McIntyre, Ann, Holt, 1994 Sunset Western Garden Book, Sunset Publishing, 2001 A Modern Herbal, Grieve, M, Dover, 1971 Prescription for Herbal Healing, Balch, Phyllis, Avery, 2002