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Brown, Durham. As we near Midsummer I once again am reminded of the constant contrasts that sneak into the web and ebb of the wheel of the year. We will go into that good night, but perhaps not quietly.
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Midsummer approaches, as it is on June 21st this year. It was a time of celebration, divination and mystery among many of our ancestors. But we have plants to discuss Traditions vary widely in the Western Hemisphere where the equinoxes and solstices are more easily discernible, but as always the ways in which plants fit into the Midsummer celebrations interests me most. There is so much herblore from Europe around Midsummer herbs like St.
I want to introduce you to the lesser-known Midsummer plant, Feverfew. This has earned it one of its many folk names, Midsummer daisy, due to its June blooming and, well, looking like a daisy. Other names it has earned historically are featherfoil, featherfowl, and parthenium. Avicenna, in his Canon of Medicine, one of the most influential medical books in history, assigns Feverfew to the natures of heating and drying.
Fever breaking is one of them for sure, but honestly, feverfew lives on today as a notorious headache, specifically migraine, remedy. This was believed to have been caused by elves firing invisible arrows at unsuspecting victims. This renders it a powerful protection herb from meddling Fae, especially on a night such as Midsummer's Eve. Feverfew continued to be used as a pain relieving herb as well in history through the Romany community and was also used in place of Chamomile, most likely due to their similar appearance.
It was likewise used as a sedative tea, just as Chamomile is. The plant was also used to magically soothe unruly horses by the renown horsemen of East Anglia in England who were known to have certain secrets in the world of horsemanship. According to 16th century herbalist and botanist John Gerard, the method of picking must be done just so to ensure the magic of the herb remains intact.
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It must be harvested with the left hand specifically, while also reciting aloud the name of the sufferer, and at no time looking behind oneself. This little flower was also thought to aid those suffering from melancholy when one can barely speak from sadness. It even was used to help counteract the effects of an overindulgence of opium Duke JA.
The latin name, Tanacetum, comes from the name Thanatos, the Greek god of Death. This may be due to its strange odor, which I have found to be very polarizing. I enjoy the mugwort-like scent, but occasionally certain people smell it and abhor it strongly, comparing it to some bodily smell. So, as is often the case, this Summer flower stands as an emblem of the life giving Sun, and as an accompaniment to Death.
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This association has given Feverfew a powerful magical influence as a plant of protection, Midsummer power and finally, the liminal spaces between Life and Death. Ever reminding up that with all Light, comes Darkness. Brown N. Folklore Collection.
Southern Folk Medicine. The plant was brought to North America alongside many other cottage herbs meant to heal. The later being as likely to happen as the former. Regardless of invisible arrow dangers, this cheerful Midsummer bloomer is an important member of the herbs of Midsummer.
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Make a garland, hang a bundle above the door to protect against the wandering Fae who roam about the lands with the Summer thunderstorms, and include it in your Midsummer balefire to honor the Sun at its zenith point. Revel in the flames of Summer yet turn your back not on the Shadows of the Dark year. Light, Phyllis. Pareek, A. The strange, brilliant orange and green flowers of the Tulip Poplar tree are in full bloom now in the warmer parts of the mountains.
If you have never stripped the fresh bark off a newly cut tree and folded into a berry basket or twisted the retted, inner bark into a soft cordage, or lickd the fallen flowers for their sugary nectar, I encourage you to meet and hold this wonderful tree and all of its amazing parts in your own two hands.
Botanist Johann David Schoepff in remarked on the usefulness of the tulip poplar during his travels in North America. He declared the tincture of the bark and root useful as a febrifuge and rheumatic remedy; the seed as aperient; the fresh leaves to make an ointment for various inflammations and gangrene. He most likely learned these uses from the settlers and they from American Indians. Making tulip poplar bark cordage. Medicinally it was used for periodic fevers, diarrhea, pinworms, as a digestive aid, and for rheumatic pain. The decoction is used as a bath for fractures, sprains, and hemorrhoids.
There is also an interesting bit of lore that comes from David Winston where in if a snake bite is received in a dream, the tulip poplar must be applied, for if the bite is left untreated, traumatic arthritis could develop in the area bitten. Does the damp heat of the summer in the Southern Appalachians give rise to the folk healing traditions of these mountains?
The prevalence of fever remedies in the Appalachian medicinal herb lexicon makes me want to say yes. During the Revolutionary war, Governor Clayton stated that "during the late Revolution war Peruvian bark was very scarce and expensive, and as I was at that time engaged in considerable practice, I made a mixture of the barks of Liriodendron tulip poplar , Cornus florida dogwood and Quercus alba white oak in nearly equal quantities.
The stately tulip tree and its longtime companion the Dogwood cornus spp. Tulip poplar inner bark and root bark came to feature prominently in fever formulas and bitter tonics for rheumatism and general inflammations. Though this tree was written about here and there in reference to its benefits in the fights against fevers, it was mostly thought of as a country folks remedy. The bark is considered stimulant, causing sweating, while being astringent and bitter. The root bark is considered tonic.
He recommends mixing it with dogwood and winterberry for fever they called them intermittents in old medical books due to the back and forth nature of malarial fevers , and black alder. The root powder was also used in late stage dysentery and gout.
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A great cure for hysteria is also apparently laudanum and poplar bark, so much so that Barton says there is in fact no better remedy. It was used as a vermifuge in African folk medicine as well, but it was given as root decoction to horses for worms. He describes the older uses of the wood specifically as well.
Tulip tree wood was used to make large mill wheels because it was said it could be tolerant of wet conditions.
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It was also used on the lathe often to make utensils. This easily carvable wood was used for butter stamps and canoes as well as aforementioned. A liquor was even made in Paris of the bark and roots with sugar. In Appalachian folk medicine tulip poplar bark was used largely for inflammation, rheumatism, and according to Alabama folk herbalist Tommie Bass, the root bark was a good tonic that would make you sweat and help stimulate appetite. I have seen the flower tincture used for the same purposes, namely arthritic pain.
My sweet friend Abby Artemisia uses it for anxiety and insomnia as a tea or tincture of the twigs.