THE WILD KITCHEN & APOTHECARY — Healing Flowers

July 2, 2018

By Angela Kingsawan

When we talk about herbal medicine, most people don’t immediately think of flowers. We have been conditioned to believe our medicine must have harsh odors and must overwhelm not only our illness, but our very being, to be effective. Flowers, with delicate petals and fragrances, are completely opposite of the commercial pharmaceuticals. Flowers gently and subtly address not only physical disorders, but also the emotional disorders that lie beneath the surface. 

I wait all winter for the return of the flowers. Over the years, I have begun to tell time by the appearance of the many different wildflowers that we are blessed with in the Milwaukee area. It is very important for me to harvest flowers because they are only in bloom for a short time. I know that most flowers and herbs can either be purchased online or at a health store, however, the medicinal quality of flowers and herbs is far greater when obtained from your immediate surroundings. 

Throughout May, my daughters and I gently handpick the sweet wood violets that abound in our yard. Violet flowers have become one of our forgotten delicacies. They are edible and can be used medicinally or in culinary applications. I dry some violets for tea, to enjoy during the long winter months. I do, however, make a point of enjoying them fresh too.

I toss the flowers into salads and use them to garnish cucumber sandwiches and other fresh appetizers. The Victorians savored violet jelly and syrup. Violet syrup is a lovely way to experience such a delicate flavor. I make it every spring. In a saucepan, I combine one and a-fourth cups sugar, 1 to 2 cups fresh violet flowers, and 2 ½ cups water. I bring it to a boil over medium-high heat and cook it until the sugar has completely dissolved, only about one minute. Then, I immediately remove it from the heat source. I let it stand at room temperature until cooled. You can strain the plant material out, if you would like to store the syrup. If you plan to use the syrup fairly soon, I would encourage leaving the flowers in. Violets have a calming and cooling effect. They have been used historically for soothing respiratory tract conditions, treating menopausal symptoms, and digestive issues. (WebMD)

After the violets have faded, we begin seeing wild chamomile popping up everywhere including along sidewalks and in the cracks. This is also called pineapple weed because of its sweet aroma. It looks very much like domesticated chamomile, except there are no white petals circling the cone-like yellow disk flowers. This is another edible plant that has many beneficial medicinal properties. There are some people who may be allergic to it, so I encourage everyone to be very careful when approaching all new herbs. Always consult your physician, if you have any questions or concerns.

Pineapple weed has been used by Native Americans for thousands of years to treat many different disorders. The most notable uses are for insomnia, stress and anxiety, and to soothe the digestive system. The flower heads and leaves are used to make tea.

Besides drinking this tea, I use it as a hair rinse or a skin refreshing spray during the summer months. I make a strong infusion by boiling the flower heads, leaves, and stems (2 ounces of plant material to 4 cups of water). I let it reduce by 50 percent, to about a cup. I immediately strain out the pineapple weed and let the infusion cool at room temperature. When it is cooled completely, I pour it into spray bottles. If you would like to make it extra cooling, store them in the refrigerator. This is a wonderful way to cool down at the beach, when camping, or while out and about in the city. 

There are many more flowers growing and appearing every day. They each have their own distinct spirit and can help us on many different levels. As we move through the growing months of the summer, I encourage you to take note of what is appearing around you. I was told by an Elder some years ago, that whatever is growing around us is the medicine we need now and is what will help us get through the coming winter. I have found those words to be very true in my own life and my family’s.

Always be aware, investigate, and safely experiment. All of us have the ability to invite wellness into our lives and to teach our future generations how to live beautifully and in harmony with nature.

Angela Kingsawan is the herbalist and garden coordinator at Core El Centro, a wholistic healing center. For information: core-elcentro.org

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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