March always symbolizes for me the beginning of spring and all that is green...AND all that is IRISH! I have always had a fascination with this this culture and country. Its beautiful green hills and pastures, the lilt of the accents, the music that makes you want to get up and jig, and ancient Celtic sites like Newgrange (older than the pyramids I might add). March brings with it the world wide celebration of St. Patrick’s Day which occurs annually on the 17th of March. St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the life of the patron Saint of Ireland...St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to the Island. The holiday has evolved to celebrate the heritage, traditions, and culture of the Irish people and land.
What is very evident about Irish culture (pre-Patrick and post-Patrick) is that the land was held sacred. You find this in the myths, songs, and legends, along with the artwork. The seasons held great importance and symbolism for the lands abundance. They understood that they were connected to the land. The pre-christian calendar was one of 13 months with 13 types of trees, all of which had spiritual and medicinal significance for each period of the year. In celebration of all that is Irish especially within the nature of Ireland - this month we will explore some of the medicinal herbs/foods utilized by the Irish/Celtic people...before and after St. Patrick arrived.
Bilberry~this delicious berry is full of antioxidants and promotes heart health by keeping the veins and arteries clean & strong. It strengthens the blood brain barrier which helps keep out harmful toxins and viruses. It contains strong anti-cancer agents. Bilberry also boosts the immune system and promotes healthy supple skin.
Bilberries were great for dyes and the Celts celebrated this berry in the Festival of Lugnasa (closest to the first Sunday of August). Some parts of Ireland still celebrate this Bilberry Sunday or Fraochán Sunday.
Burdock~is known for its detoxifying and antiseptic properties, Burdock triggers all of the excretory systems, lungs, liver, kidneys, the sweat glands and the lymphatic and urinary systems to expunge toxins and excess fluids and so unblocking and detoxifying them. It's cleansing abilities assist with inflammatory conditions such as: gout, arthritis, and rheumatism, and skin problems. Most importantly it enhances liver, digestive, and immune functions!
Comfrey~The Gaelic name for Comfrey means "the plant for broken bones," and is used as a poultice today for treating sprains, sprains, bruises and swellings. It has amazing tissue regenerative abilities and is effective in destroying harmful bacteria. Until recently it was used by families in the Aran Islands, Kerry, Limerick and other parts of the country as a poultice for healing broken bones, knowledge which has probably been passed up through the generations from the ancient Celts.
Coltsfoot~ is known for its respiratory properties and one of the best herbal remedies for coughs.It is an anti-inflammatory, demulcent diuretic, astringent and digestive. Improves digestion, and appetite, soothes irritation of the gut lining.
Dandelion~ is anti-bacterial and was used externally to treat wounds. Internally dandelion promotes healthy kidney & liver function, prevents gallstones, fights jaundice and malaria, eases constipation, and overall is a great detoxifier, blood cleanser, and digestive aid. In the first of February the Celts celebrated the White Goddess, who was later renamed St. Brigid; the dandelion was one of her symbols.
Elderberry~ has many powers as a relaxant, antioxidant, adaptogen, diuretic, immune enhancing, and anti-inflammatory. It Improves circulation, respiratory health, and strengthens the immune system. The flowers are calming and soothing for tension, anxiety and depression. They help to induce sleep and strengthen our ability to respond to stress.
Eyebright~ literally was used to assist the eyes and was used as an eye wash or compress for eye irritations, styes, conjunctivitis, and eyestrain. Internally it was used for colds, sinus infections, bronchitis, and allergies.
Feverfew~ was named for its potential ability to reduce fevers, what it can do is aid migraines and inflammatory conditions! It also can help promote regular menstrual cycles, ease childbirth, stomach-aces, and skin conditions.
Garlic~is a convenient, super-food with many uses. It has a powerful ability to fight infection with its antibacterial powers and boost the immune system. It also helps lower bad cholesterol & blood pressure, reduces inflammation, and decreases risk of cancer! And that's not all, garlic can aid the respiratory system and help the digestive system get rid of worms or parasites.
Hawthorn~is known for its heart health abilities. It dilates blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely and lower blood pressure. It directly aids the heart muscle and can help a damaged heart become stronger. It has these abilities too: antioxidant, vaso-dilator, circulatory stimulant, cardio-tonic, nutritive, nervien, sedative, antibacterial, astringent, and digestive.
Irish Moss~ is an amazing Irish superfood that comes from the SEA! It was originally named carraigín meaning “little rock”. In Irish folklore, this moss was carried with people on trips or laid beneath rugs in their homes - as it was supposed to bring safety, protection, and luck! Irish moss balances the Thyroid hormones. It contains the vital thyroid hormone precursor DI-Iodothyronine (DIT), and the thyroid hormones Thyroxin (T4) and Tri-iodothyronine. Iodine is the most important ingredient in hormone production of the thyroid and Irish Moss has a lot of it! Irish Moss also helps with respiratory health by dissolving phlegm and soothing inflammation. It is also nutrient dense, being that our bodies have 102 minerals and Irish Moss contains 92 of them! And if that’s not enough, its an immune boosting food, digestive aid, helps with weight loss, and it makes for an excellent thickening agent in pudding/cooking.
Marshmallow~externally it has been used to soothe sprains and swelling. Internally it can soothe inflammation and irritation of the alimentary canal and of the urinary and respiratory organs. It can also ease the passage of kidney stones.
Meadowsweet~ Functions as an anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, analgesic, and relaxant. Helps aid digestive issues, like acid indigestion, heartburn, gastritis, peptic ulcers, and reflux. Meadowsweet also relieves headaches and neuralgia. It can be used as a relaxant, by easing spasms and induces sleep.
Mullein~ is another powerful herb with many abilities. It soothes the gut, eases peptic ulcers, and reduces diarrhea. It can function as a painkiller for headaches, neuralgia, arthritis and rheumatism, and encourages sleep. Mullein oil is particularly good for earache, tinnitus, ear infections, wax accumulation and pain caused by the ear. As a respiratory tonic Mullein is a soothing expectorant for harsh, dry coughs, sore throats, and inflammatory conditions in the chest and lungs. It enhances the immune system through its anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial actions. Externally Mullein can be used on painful joints, muscles, and swollen glands. Mullein oil from the flowers is used as teardrops for earache and eczema of the outer ear.
Nettle~ is a highly nutritious herb packed with Vitamin A & C as well as many minerals. It functions as an astringent, diuretic, and antihistamine. Nettle promotes good digestion as the astringent tannins protect the gut lining from irritation and infection. It also relieves diarrhea and flatulence, stimulates liver and kidney function and reduces blood sugar. The seeds improve thyroid function. Nettle also promotes respiratory health, clears phlegm in coughs, bronchitis, hay fever and asthma. Nettle strengthens the immune and reproductive systems. As a diuretic, nettle relieves fluid retention, cystitis, and urethritis. It also helps with bed-wetting and incontinence.
Plantain~ is known as a wound healer and antidote to poisons. It acts an astringent, diuretic, decongestant, antiseptic, and antispasmodic. It improves digestion, reduces spasms, and colic. Additionally it improves respiratory health and is effective for hay fever and asthma. Its an immune system booster and reduces swelling and inflammation. Externally it is used for cuts, stings and insect bites.
Rosemary~ Is valued for being rich in antioxidants. It improves digestion, circulation, respiratory health, and strengthens the immune system. Its an excellent brain tonic, improves concentration and memory. Its calms anxiety and lifts depression, relieves exhaustion, and insomnia.
Sphagnum Moss/Peat Moss~
is used mainly as an antiseptic. Because of its absorptive properties, it makes an excellent wound dressing and has been widely employed for this purpose in the past. Many wars previous to modern medicine, utilized this moss and it helped save lives! Externally it is also helpful for the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, pruritus and many other forms of skin diseases. It is very beneficial for skin irritations caused by allergic reactions or insect bites. And it can help prevent reactions to the skin.
There are so many more herbs to cover, let alone plants and trees that the Celts utilized, but to end let's look into that FOUR LEAF CLOVER!
There are over 300 types of clover species in the world. The rare four leaf clover hales from the white clover family, named for its fluffy white blossoms.It is a genetic rarity making it special and giving reason to all the myths, legends, and folklore about it being such a lucky plant. It is said that each leaf has a symbol: faith, hope, love, and luck. In religious terms the three leaf clover represented the trinity and if you found a fourth leaf, then the extra leaf represented luck or God’s grace.The legend is that St. Patrick would use the three leaf clovers to teach the Celts about trinity in Christianity. But even before St. Patrick, triads were considered of spiritual significance and power. To this day the clover or Shamrock is an emblem of Ireland. Wherever you celebrate St. Patrick's Day, the clover will be utilized in all designs, symbols, and decorations.
White Clover~has been used to cleanse and purify blood. And tea from the buds can be used as an eye wash.
Red Clover~is the more well known clover found in Ireland is used for cancer prevention, indigestion, high cholesterol, whooping cough, cough, asthma, bronchitis, and sexually transmitted diseases. It's also used for symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes; for breast pain or tenderness; and for premenstrual syndrome.
By connecting with herbs, like the Celts and Irish you will deepen your connection to nature, earth, and yourself.
On this St. Patrick’s Day add one of these herbs to your life. One idea would be to make an Irish Moss Pudding (Recipe is on Sunshine Herbs website)! Happy 17th!