Happy Solstice!

photo of sunflower
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Are you doing anything special to mark the longest (or shortest, if you’re in the southern hemisphere) day of the year?

If you need some ideas, here are a few to get you started…

 

Make Sun Tea

clear glass bowl beside yellow flower
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Make a Flower Crown

man with pink floral headdress
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Do some cooking, or bake Solstice cookies or cake.

slices of lemon on white plate
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Wishing you a Happy Solstice…
Aspasía S. Bissas

Vampire’s Garden: Dock

yellow dock

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is fifth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Rumex crispus

Common Names: Yellow Dock, Curly Dock, Curled Dock, Narrow Dock, Rumex

History: Native to Europe and western Asia, dock gets the common name “yellow dock” from its large root, which is bright yellow when cut, and the name “curly dock” from its slightly ruffled leaves. Traditionally the leaves and seeds were eaten, while the leaves and roots were used medicinally as a general health tonic and to improve digestion, as well as to treat jaundice, skin diseases, and scurvy. Although naturalized in temperate areas, it’s considered an invasive species in the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand, and an “injurious weed” in the UK.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Patience

Cultivation: Perennial in zones 4 to 7. Plants can grow to 1.5 m (about 5 ft) tall. Because it can be easily found growing wild (including in waste areas, roadsides, fields, and along shorelines) and is invasive in many areas, consider foraging for dock rather than cultivating it. If you’d still like to grow it (after checking to make sure it isn’t invasive where you live), scatter seed over prepared soil in spring, summer, or fall. Dock prefers full sun to part shade and moist soil (but will tolerate most conditions). Dock will self-seed and can also re-grow from a piece of root left behind. Harvest leaves before the plant flowers, roots in autumn, and seeds after they turn brown.

Uses:

Medicinal: The root is high in iron and is used to treat anemia, often in combination with stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). The root is also mildly laxative, although it isn’t always effective. Taken internally or applied externally, the leaves may be helpful for skin conditions such as itching, rashes (including the stings from nettles), and sores. It’s also used to ease pain and inflammation in nasal passages and the respiratory tract. It can be applied to the skin to stop bleeding.

Culinary: Leaves are high in vitamins C and A, iron, and potassium, but are also high in oxalic acid, which can cause kidney stones and blood mineral imbalances. Young leaves should be boiled in several changes of water to reduce the oxalic acid (although that will also reduce nutrients). Serve leaves like spinach (after boiling, drain, and heat with olive oil or butter and garlic, or add to any dish you would use spinach in). They can also be eaten raw in small amounts. Older leaves are too bitter to be palatable. Once seeds have turned brown they can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds can also be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Host Plant: Dock is an ideal host plant for some species of moth, which lay their eggs on the curled leaves.

Caution: Leaves are high in oxalic acid, which can irritate the urinary tract and cause kidney stones. Dock should not be used by people taking anti-coagulants or drugs that decrease blood calcium, like diuretics. Avoid if you have bladder, liver, or kidney problems, or ulcers; otherwise, consume in moderation. Limit or avoid using while pregnant and breastfeeding, as dock can have a laxative effect (which gets passed through breast milk). Those allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to dock.

Caution 2: The oxalic acid in dock makes it toxic to dogs (I’m assuming to cats too). Do not let your pets eat or chew on dock.

Possible Side Effects: The leaves and root may cause intestinal discomfort and skin irritation. Taking too much can result in low blood levels of calcium and potassium–a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Mara’s Uses: Mara uses dock in tinctures and capsules (along with other herbs) as an iron-rich tonic for bloodletters (human blood donors used by vampires). Dock is among the herbs she experiments with for her blood substitute.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia

Language of Flowers

The Health Benefits of Yellow Dock

WebMD

Identify That Plant

Edible Wild Food

Herb Lore: Yellow Dock Root

Tips on Growing

The Spruce: Nettle Rash Treatment

Yellow Dock: An Iron Rich Tea

 

-Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Vampire’s Garden: St. John’s Wort

st johns wort

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is fourth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Latin Name: Hypericum perforatum

Common Names: St. John’s Wort, Tipton’s weed, goatweed, common St. John’s Wort, perforate St. John’s Wort, Balsamo (Greece)

History: Native to temperate Europe and Asia, St. John’s Wort is now considered an invasive/noxious weed in more than 20 countries (it’s also toxic to livestock). Its use goes back to ancient Greece and Rome, where is was used for snakebites, burns, wounds, sciatica, and to treat recurring fevers, among other things. It was also believed to protect against witches’ spells. Later, it was associated with the Norse God of Light and Summer, Baldr, thanks to the plant’s bright yellow flowers and tendency to bloom around the summer solstice (21 June). Eventually 24 June became St. John’s feast day and the plant was renamed. The flowering shoots were hung over doors and stalls to ward off evil spirits, and to protect both people and animals from harm and illness. In Greece it would be hung in homes over religious icons of St. John, which led to its botanical name (hyper, meaning “above” and eikon, meaning “picture” or “icon.”)

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Animosity

Cultivation: Perennial (Zones 5-7). Produces creeping rhizomes and seeds–can be invasive (check with your local authorities before growing St. John’s Wort). Can be easily grown in any reasonable, well-drained soil; tolerates dry conditions. Prefers sun (will tolerate part shade). Start seed indoors and transplant to a permanent outdoor location after all danger of frost is past. Harvest flowering shoots and dry to use later, or preserve fresh flowers and buds in oil (see below). Because it spreads so easily, it can be readily found growing wild in fields, near creeks, and by the sides of roads.

Uses:

Medicinal: Taken internally, St. John’s Wort has been shown to be effective for mild to moderate depression and symptoms of menopause. Be aware that supplements are not regulated and can vary widely in quality, reliability, and efficacy.

Externally, the oily extract is used to heal wounds, bruises, and various skin conditions. It can also be rubbed on sore muscles. Research has found that hypericin, one of the plant’s chemical compounds, has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Make your own extract by filling a sterilized glass jar with flower buds and flowers. Cover completely with olive oil (or other vegetable oil). Cover the jar and leave on a sunny windowsill for about a month. Wipe away any condensation that forms inside the jar. Oil should turn a deep red colour. Strain to remove flowers. Store extract in a cool, dry place. If mold develops while oil is steeping (usually because the plant material isn’t fully covered or there’s too much moisture in the jar) discard and start over.

You can also make a tea with fresh or dried flowers. Cool and apply the tea to skin with a clean cloth or cotton pad. Use for wounds, bruises, skin conditions, and burns. You can also drink the tea (hot or cold) for its medicinal benefits, although beneficial effects will be milder than from a supplement.

Caution: If you’re taking prescriptions (including anti-depressants, heart medicine, and birth control pills), avoid using St. John’s Wort internally, as it can interfere with absorption and cause interactions. It can also cause photosensitivity–avoid sun exposure entirely or cover up and wear sunscreen if you’re using St. John’s Wort in any form. Don’t use St. John’s Wort if pregnant or nursing.

Caution 2: If you’re taking St. John’s Wort for depression and decide to stop, make sure to wean off it slowly by gradually decreasing the dose. Stopping abruptly can have adverse effects.

Possible Side Effects: Restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, stomach upset, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, skin rash and tingling. It can also cause vivid dreams.

Crafts: Alcohol extracts of the plant produce a deep red dye. Used with different mordants, it can produce various shades on wool, silk, and other fibres.

Mara’s Uses: Mara mentions Hypericum as a plant worth studying for her blood substitute. It would also be part of her apothecary business, added to tinctures and extracts for other vampires to give their bloodletters (both to combat depression and to heal wounds), as well as for to human customers.

Further Reading:

St. John’s Wort Oil: Benefits & How to Make

How to Use St. John’s Wort

Natural Dyeing with Hypericum Perforatum

Wild Colours Natural Dyes

Briargate Botanicals

Monterey Bay Spice Company

WebMD

Encyclopedia.com

Wikipedia