By Rhonda Mae PallasDowney
Living as Human Adaptors
Relaxing and reflecting on various herbs, flowers, trees, and plants, their uses, and my relationship to them this past summer touched a place inside of me that continues to guide my inquiry into the field of adaptogens. All the while, I was experiencing an adaptation of my own that included the awareness of my lifestyle and all that it encompasses. The mindfulness of the changing of the seasons and what each season requires of me, although familiar, is a new way to adapt.
For example, slipping in from spring to summer especially changes my outdoor routine from walking and hiking most every day to swimming. This includes getting up an hour or so earlier and becoming accustomed to the timing of the sunrise, the sunset, and the Arizona heat. This timing change then also affects everything else I do all day long and the time in which I do it, affecting both my internal and external environments.
And as a plant enthusiast, I learn to readjust to the seasons changing within the season. Global warming, inconsistent weather conditions, the imbalance of drought vs. rain, etc. play an enormous role in my life in the way that I gather plants and make essences, even if the flowers are just a few weeks or sometimes a month off of the normal blooming period.
Oh yeah, and then there’s everyday living. There are some days that go smoothly and just require a general routine such as eating, sleeping, job, family, hobbies, etc. without any drama. Piece of cake, right? And then there are those other days that may be comprised of various kinds of major dramas, whether in the world (that is everyday, in the politics of our country and worldwide issues), in our communities, or at home. And the list goes on, suffering at many levels, sickness, recovery, death, birth, and the evolving re-birth (mind-body-spirit) of humankind.
Each and every day we live our lives navigating our way or not, planned and/or unplanned, looking for, grasping on, and letting go, being present, being mindful, over and over, while adapting to being “normal” and yet authentic in nature to who we are. Now that’s a lot of energy we hold in our energy fields! We become used to it, familiar with it, and as long as we’re feeling strong, usually we can hold the energy and get by without a collapse. However, if and when we have those weaker moments, perhaps of either physical or mental exhaustion or both, it then becomes more difficult to make adjustments throughout the day. Our relationship to the stress within our bodies, minds, and spirits along with the stresses created in our families or with our friends, and the stress in the world, then becomes elevated and expressed in many different ways. We lose the connection within ourselves and of the ways in which we adapt, and we begin to break down. However, that may be experienced with each of us and at any given time, expected or unexpected.
Moment to moment, we are faced to adapt to life, as life doesn’t adapt to us! Learning to listen to ourselves from the deepest places within helps us to adapt to what our bodies-minds-spirits are telling us. The energetic field is pushing us to expand wider and wider, to push through those inner walls, and to adapt to the rhythm of the times.
We, as living beings, are human adaptive agents, uniting body-mind-spirit as a source of energy that surges through in the form of creating authentic expression, continuously transforming our energy fields to restore balance, grace, and harmony within ourselves, with others, mother earth, and the entire ecosystem. We strive to strengthen the vital essence we were born with and to support that being moment to moment.
The awareness of our ecological interrelatedness as One system that comprises all living organisms offers a unique opportunity to experience life as I would like to refer to it as BioAdaptogenic. This, to me, means adapting to life as life is and allowing it to unfold into its own natural expression of being, while holding a conscious path for its growth, restoring and harmonizing the vital force of all that is.
I choose the word “bio” as a reference to “life or a living organism,” including any and all living organisms. With the awareness of living a bioadaptogenic life, we can begin to understand the synchronizing relationship of supporting the natural forces of nature. This relates to healthy conditions of life, ranging from soil and organic farming and the foods we eat to all the ways which are as naturally supporting to our environment as possible that reinforce animal, plant, and human health, and all the ways that we adapt to that as well as all living organisms.
The word adaptogen originated from Dr. Nikolai Lazarev in 1947, who was a Russian pharmacologist. The awareness of adaptogens dates back thousands of years. Dr. Lazarev defined adaptogens as “agents which help an organism to counteract any adverse effects of a physical, chemical or biological stressor by generating nonspecific resistance.”
The dictionary refers to adaptogen as “(in herbal medicine), a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes.”
In his book, Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, Donald Yance describes adaptogen to “nonspecific, endocrine-regulating, immune-modulating effects of certain plants that increase a person’s ability to maintain optimal balance in the face of physical or emotional stress. These botanical agents provide the perfect antidote for the life-robbing deficiencies in vitality created by the demands of modern life.”
To simplify this discussion, let’s summarize adaptogens as natural substances that help improve the struggle of adverse effects on the body that are especially related to a multitude of stressors, which may be affected physically, chemically, or biologically and offer a non-toxic normalizing effect with no specific responses indicated.
In today’s world, there is not a true definition of adaptogens; however, they are considered to be of their own class as “natural, homeostatic metabolic regulators.”
(Winston, David and Maimes, Steve, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, p.18.)
Adaptogenic herbs such as astragalus, Chinese/Korean ginseng, Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, eleuthero, licorice, and more have been used in the treatment or as part of a treatment for various conditions including stress, anxiety and nervous disorders, chronic illnesses, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, cardiovascular health, liver and kidney disease, the immune system, and the endocrine system.
Many of these adaptogenic herbs not only improve the body’s defense mechanisms to hostile stresses, but they also serve as a tonic and immune-stimulator while normalizing the inner environment, improving the vital force, and increasing a general sense of wellness and strength.
Using Flower and Tree Essences as BioAdaptogens
My personal inquiry into adaptogens guided me to explore deeper how flower and tree essences may find their own place in the class of adaptogens and what I now refer to as bioadaptogens. Before going any further on using flower essences as adaptogens, I contacted my friend and herbal mentor, JoAnn Sanchez, for some feedback. I asked if she and other herbalists would think that flower essences could be considered adaptogens in their own form of use and overall constitutional make-up and preparation. JoAnn’s response, “How exciting! Well, yes! why wouldn’t they be?” Her enthusiasm supported the journey of my inquisition.
Flower essences, including catkins from trees, are vibrational in design, and they are charged with a particular frequency and special quality of a flower’s (or catkin’s) subtle energetic life-force field. Flowers or catkins are picked and placed in a clear glass bowl filled with purified water. The bowl is then placed in direct sunlight or in some cases, moonlight, until the flowers or catkins have faded into the water, leaving their energetic imprint. The energy of light and water transfers the energy of the blossoms or catkins, extracting a life-force pattern that embodies the character of the flower from the plant or tree that it is, or the character of the catkin from the tree that it is. This is called a flower essence infusion. The subtle energy pattern stored within the flower or catkin essence can be used for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.
As plant substances that offer a subtle energetic impact in the ways that people adapt to stress and anxiety, along with their relationship to themselves and the diseases in which they may incur, flower and tree essences are naturally adaptogenic. These essences by nature, embodying a living energy (bio), can help a person bring awareness to the ways in which they adapt and connect to those places within that harmonize and calm, strengthen and restore, normalize and reinforce a healthy and vital inner and outer environment.
I love and appreciate the following quote written by Dr. Gladys Taylor McGarey, a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Association who explained the significance of living medicine. “The concept of living medicine is truly exciting because if we’re alive, we’re going to have illness, we’re going to have pain, we’re going to have all of the problems that go along with life, but we’re going to be alive. Our focus needs to change from killing to helping enhance the life process within each individual. If we do this, we’re going to need living materials, such as living air, living earth, living water, and living food.”
With the Healing Power of Flowers, Rhonda brings a living healing method to our attention. This type of healing truly is working with living medicine. The plants and flowers have lived, and they pass their living essence to the person who uses the naturally derived product. Life enhances life, and as we involve ourselves in the healing process, with its joys and sorrows, its good times and hard times, I know that nothing makes this truth more clear than flower essences.” (PallasDowney, Rhonda, The >Healing Power of Flowers, xv.xvi foreword written by Dr. GladysTaylor McGarey).
Through the development of conscious awareness of ourselves, others, the planet, and the ecosystem, we, as living organisms, can enhance our quality of living a bio-adaptogenic life, anchoring in the energy of restoration and harmony of all that is from within to without.
Taking a flower essence as an alchemical stimulator can create a conversion of an emotional state, for example, from anxiety and stress to calm and tranquility. By moving out of drama, and consciously letting the old patterns go, we enter into a more balanced state of homeostasis.
Flower essences help to create a fertile garden within our own inner environment that brings harmony to our natural landscape or our true self. They offer an invitation to start exercising and practicing the push to move beyond the walls and barriers, to open up the inner doorways, to feel into and to embrace living in a new world every day. They help us to feel the world rather than just trying to understand it, to let the timeless be in charge of time, and to experience the mystery of our life’s journey both naturally and consciously with the freedom to evolve.
This being said, as each plant and each tree has its roots, each of us comes into our own life form with an innate primal force that encompasses an individualized spiritual and soul heritage along with a DNA energy that affects where we have come from and how we evolve the foundation of our authentic selves and well being. The root energy center located between the tailbone (the coccyx) and the pubic bone, includes the functions of the anus, rectum, circulatory system, lower extremities, legs, and entire pelvic area. The root energy center or chakra of a person is governed by the adrenal glands of the endocrine system, which are located atop the kidneys and produce steroid hormones that regulate salt concentrates in the blood, hydrocortisone, which assists the body in its response to physical stress, and small amounts of sex hormones, both male (androgens) and female (estrogens), that augment the hormones secreted by the gonad.
By connecting with our roots and grounding the energy of our beingness, going to the source or foundation of our health conditions as well as understanding the integration of our human energy system as a whole, we have the ability to strengthen our vital force and heal our DNA origins.
Living Trees As Our Teachers and Friends
What better way to connect to and experience our own roots than to study the species of trees including their root systems, doctrine of signatures, bark, leaves, catkins or flowers, and the ways in which they live and communicate? Experiencing the presence of where trees live and how they grow, and to take in their essence, their scents, their presence and vital force only heightens our awareness of these most powerful beings.
What we do know is that tree roots need water, oxygen, and certain soil and climate conditions, including proper drainage, that allow enough space for roots to penetrate and grow. Trees also join forces with many different kinds of fungi, depending on the location and conditions of the forests they live in. Fungi filaments find their way into the soft root hairs of the trees, and both the trees and the fungi feed each other through photosynthesis, sugar, and carbohydrates. This exchange of energy opens spacious pathways for the fungi to expand into a forest web that helps the tree roots connect through electrical signals from nerve cells at the tip of the roots, thereby forming a huge network of nutrients, root systems, and information about pests, insects, animals, drought, and various dangers.
Tree roots spread out at least twice the size of its crown, creating a social network of family and environment. There are always those few trees that are isolated from the others, as hermits you may say, whose roots do not connect and who tend to live a shorter life and are more susceptible to becoming diseased. I find this signature itself fascinating in comparison with people who live socially and those who may live a more isolated life.
Tree roots and trees bring an awareness of our own root system and of the physical ways in which we stay alive, such as the food we eat, the lifestyles we choose, where we live, how we survive in the world, our social networks, and the environments we choose to be in. Beneath the surface of who we are, as the tree roots grow inside the darkness of the earth finding nutrients for their survival, we are given opportunities to face the shadows within ourselves and experience the deep internal journey into the discovery of our human nature, giving us the space and growth needed to continue our evolvement with the support of friends and family.
Sure there are competitors, even with trees, as there are always competitors in our societies. How can trees not struggle with light and living conditions, especially in crowded areas with mixed species?
Trees communicate and survive through their roots and their electrical signals, sound waves, trunks and branches (wood), leaves, scent, catkins, flowers, seeds, and doctrine of signatures. Trees also mature in their own time and their own state of being. They are in no hurry; they have no place to go; they can take their time to extend their roots deeper into the earth as the tips of their branches begin to touch the tips of others. They serve as wonderful teachers to help us adapt, slow down, pace ourselves, ground and anchor, go to our roots and find the source of what we’re looking for—to feel it and to go deeper into it.
Trees generally are friends with their own species—of air, light, space, and in natural settings—avoiding taking away what is not theirs to take. They share their nutrients, they help each other grow, and they live as members in their communities. Trees heal the soul in so many ways. They teach us to breathe, to slow down, to take in the wonders of nature and its scents, to endure, to protect, to feel inspired, and to stop and listen.
For generations and generations, trees, like animals, plants, human beings, and all of nature itself, are constantly adapting both in morphological adaptations (physical changes that occur over generations based on environmental conditions) and in physiological adaptations (how the internal system thrives and responds to external stimuli) to gain or maintain homeostasis.
My Search for Trees and making Essences
Growing up in a small town in the midwest, with all the wonders of natural settings including family farms, creeks, woods, lakes and ponds, camping, and nature adventures, I became familiar with trees. My dad had a favorite hickory tree that lived an isolated life out in the middle of a bean field that he would take me to. We would gather the fruit when they turned from green to brown and when most of them had already fallen on the ground. We’d take them home and then put them in his vice to crack them. Cracking nuts was one of his favorite hobbies. We cracked many a walnut, pecan, and hickory.
As a child, I became especially familiar with buckeyes, elms, walnuts, wild cherry, pines, chestnuts, spruces, birches, weeping willows, maples, oaks, and of course, many common fruit trees that my parents grew and which grew in our town of Bluffton, Ohio.
As a quest in my late 20s, I set up a campsite in the massive and rich forest of the Appalachian mountains of Southeastern Ohio. It was a three to four-month initiation, living alone in a forest, to a wealth of beautifully large hardwood trees, such as sugar maples, ash, birch, oak, and flowering dogwoods. These trees became my guardians in which I gave many of them names and got to know them on a very personal level. On the ridgeways, lived the pines, spruces, and firs. I remember feeling the difference in the deciduous forests as being more of a rich, deep, grounding experience where plants such as goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), black and blue cohosh (Actaea racemosa; Caulophyllum thalictroides) live—to the coniferous forests with the higher elevations and the endless vistas of ridgeways and valleys before me, lifting my spirit, taking me soaring into their heights with their fresh, penetrating, and elevating scents.
In February 2016, I am faced with expanding my line of Living Flower Essences that feature Southwest flower essences to include some market familiar tree essences. Fascinated by flowers and their signatures, and however intrigued by trees, I hadn’t focused on making tree essences for the public. In fact, although familiar with trees, there was a lot about them I knew that I needed further education. Feeling overwhelmed by the time and energy it would take for me to find the location, explore, experience, learn, write about, and adapt to the idea of including tree essences in my brand stirred me to take a walk in nature.
On my walk, I stopped along the way to examine a tree’s bark that I couldn’t identify. Since it was winter, the tree was bare, and I hadn’t remembered this particular tree from previous hikes. My intent, however, was to familiarize myself with getting to know tree barks for better identification purposes, which would then allow me to take more time to experience and be with the trees.
Instead, I went on to a familiar and older mesquite tree, placed my hands on the bark, and examined it closely. The bark was grayish brown, rough, and thick, and it appeared ragged into long and narrow strips. I knew it was a strong and sturdy bark as we use it for firewood; some folks use it to smoke meats. Various parts of the tree, including the bark, offer a variety of herbal healing uses.
I placed my nose against the mesquite bark to take in its musty, sweet, and earthy smell. With my arms wrapped around the tree I stood alone, feeling trapped by my own thoughts and constrictions and my awareness of my inability in that moment to think outside of the box. Deep inside I knew that I needed to shake off my attitude and move on to something new that would expand my entire energetic system from within to without.
As I moved deeper into the silent, grounding energy of the mesquite tree, it touched a place in me that brought a natural balance and harmony. It was as if a re-patterning from what appears to be old and musky, invited me into a new sense of invigoration and freshness. I felt gifted with an insight in what I wanted to achieve with the trees, knowing that one thing has to happen before another and to allow the process of it to unfold naturally.
I made a connection with the mesquite tree that day which grounded and guided me to move forward and to trust the mystery of it all. Later on my hike, I was given the opportunity to step into myself, embody my power, and take charge of myself when I crossed paths with a mountain lion. Yes, that is another story, and a big one by the way, that I will share another time.
The mountain lion, however, reminded me to gain a deeper and more expansive perspective, to widen my lens and senses, to stretch beyond my familiar comfort zone, and to step into the momentum of change that empowers the innate ability to respond and be in the moment.
The presence of the mountain lion liberated something in me that forced me to shift my consciousness, discover my stature, gain my power, and to look outside the circle through an ever-expanding lens that required me to expand with it. It marked a new beginning of engaging in the world of trees from winter, spring, summer, and fall in 2016 that will be forever endearing in my heart.
My journey of adapting to new territories, both geographically and internally, led me to an exploration and an enriching multitude of experiences with various trees, forests, animals, and people this past year which has expanded my consciousness, relationship, and love for trees. The stories the trees shared with me, and the beautiful healing energies they have to offer, continue to be a source of wisdom and inspiration.
Featuring Six Trees as Bioadaptogenic Flower Essences
Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
Family: Willow (Salicaceae)
Other Names: Golden aspen, trembling poplar, quaking aspen, American aspen, trembling aspen, mountain aspen, alamillo, white poplar, whispering tree
Where Found: Grows in various regions with diversified climate environments, generally lower altitudes in the north and higher altitudes in the south, and in communities from Canada, Alaska, throughout the United States, and in Mexico.
Elevation: 6,500’ to 10,000’
Height: Generally around 40’ though can grow up to 80’
Trunk: Average 12” in diameter
Bark: Whitish gray to yellowish bark is smooth, thin, and appears waxy. Ridged black dots appear around the tree from bottom to top, with indented holes that look like a vulva or a mother’s womb. Lower branches tend to droop down while higher limbs lift upward.
As the tree ages, bark becomes thicker and turns a darker gray, somewhat furrowed.
The bark layer of quaking aspens transmits photosynthesis, which is usually reserved for tree leaves. When most other deciduous trees are dormant in the winter, aspens continue to produce sugar for energy.
Sap is a deep rich amber orange that emerges from the inner core of the tree with an amber-like balsamic scent and a hint of fruitiness
Roots: Aspens commonly propagate mostly through root sprouts, spreading out clonal colonies. Each colony then becomes its own clone in which every tree in the clone produces identical characteristics, sharing a single root structure. Above ground, the clonal colony may appear as separate trees; however, they are genetically identical. Clones may turn color at different times in the fall than other neighboring clones, which is a simple way of showing the different colonies, and then in the spring, the synchrony continues when the colonies flower, form catkins and regrow their leaves.
Individual quaking aspen stems can live up to 50 or 60 years; however, since multiple stems sprout from the same root system, they are replaced with new growth, allowing a colony of aspens a life span of thousands of years.
Flowers: Very small, discreet flowers with white stamens/filaments that emerge from amber/orange colored buds before the leaves appear. They are firm yet soft on the outside and develop into a drooping cylindrical shape. The male catkins contain pollen, and female catkins, eggs in which feathery tufts adorned with soft, tiny, cottony seeds try to find their way in the winds to germinate and reproduce. Reproduction of the aspens, however, takes place mostly through the root system. Male and female catkins appear on separate trees.
Bloom in early spring before leaves are formed.
Buds alternate, are a reddish amber color, similar to the aspen sap. Terminal buds are conical shaped, pointed, very aromatic and balsamic, waxy, and grow up to about ¼ – ½ inch long. They are fascinating to visit time after time to see how their growth evolves. In fact, the entire developmental process of the aspen is intriguing.
Leaves: Rounded and flat with a short point, very fine double teeth, shiny green on the outside, dull green on the underside. Leaf stalk is longer than the leaf blade (known as petioles) and is without glands. There is a pattern of 6 leaves growing from a central stem. The leaves are tender, delicate, and have a lemon or citrus-like scent.
Branches appear scattered, thin, and flexible; however, they are sturdier than they look and expand outward and circular into the sky.
The leaves dance and move with the rhythm of the wind appearing to “quake” or “tremble” in even the slightest breeze. And when the winds are quiet, the aspen is still and centered, present, yet waiting for its next movement.
Fruits: Found in small capsules along the stem, each capsule contains floss and disk at the base and is thin-walled and narrow.
National Wildlife Federation Fun Fact:
A grove of quaking aspens in Utah is the largest known living thing on Earth. Nearly 50,000 stems protrude from a single root system. The entire organism covers over 100 acres and weighs 6,000 tons!
National Wildlife Federation, “Quaking Aspen” https://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Plants/Quaking-Aspen.aspx
Properties: As a member of the Willow family, aspen trees offer compounds such as salicin and populin, both of which contain properties similar to aspirin to reduce fevers, offer pain relief, use as a sedative and anti-inflammatory.
Traditional Use: Traditional uses include stomach and liver disorders, arthritis, cancer, common cold, cystitis, debility, diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, fever, fibrositis, flatulence, inflammation, rheumatism, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Aspen is also considered a tonic, diuretic, stimulant, anodyne, antiseptic, astringent, bitter, and a cholagogue (promoting the flow of bile).
Leaves, bark, root bark, and buds are used.
Other uses include making a root bark tea for excess menstrual flow, making a poultice of the root for cuts and wounds, making a tea of the inner bark for urinary issues, venereal disease, worms, colds, gargle for sore throat, and fevers.
The aromatic and balsamic buds can also be made into a tea but are more known in their use as a salve to treat skin irritations and burns.
Homeopathic Use: Homeopathic remedy is made from a tincture of the inner bark to treat dyspepsia and catarrh of the bladder, particularly with the elderly. Also used to treat indigestion with flatulence and acidity, nausea and vomiting, and painful urination (urine containing mucus and pus). It is a good remedy for cystitis, fullness of the head, and sensation of heat of the surfaces of the body. (Boericke, Clarke)
Doctrine of Signatures:
- The trembling and quaking of aspen leaves represent a kind of nervousness and anxiety, fearfulness, and fragility. Yet they also communicate a freedom of dance, movement, confidence, release, and song. Their rustling brings awareness to the sense of listening and hearing, from within to without. They help you to pay attention to your rhythms and movements, voice and sound, and how you express yourself through body, mind, emotions, and spirit in the ways you adapt to change in your life. Giving yourself the freedom to communicate helps you to trust the process, think through the steps, embrace the winds, feel protected, make peace with “distractions,” bring balance into your life, move freely, and let go.
- Because the Aspens propagate mostly through their root sprouts and spread out into clonal colonies, this is a signature of their strength of community and coming together for a certain cause or purpose. Although each colony becomes its own clone and every tree in the clone shares identical characteristics and a single root structure underground, above ground they look as if they are separate trees. The union the colonies represent comes from the same source below; however, their individual diversity shows above. This signature shows the commonality of our human race and our ability to work together for a higher purpose regardless of our differences such as age, religion, nationality, occupation, geographical location, etc.
- The strength of community, union, and diversity protects and sustains each of the individual appearing trees that are all united with the same root source. Aspen groves can be considered immortal by human standards as they live continuously for thousands of years, sprouting shoots from their roots, as humans, animals, and plants continue to bear their offspring.
- Lime green aspen catkins appear firm, bold, and strong yet soft and fuzzy.
The tiny cottony seeds in the female catkins are lifted into the winds, a signature of letting go, be it fear or anxiety, and trusting that the journey will take you right where you need to be. If germination and reproduction don’t occur from the seed, the connection made with the root sprouts is all that matters as the colony will always be together as one both above ground and underground.
Patterns of Balance:
- The ability to be adaptable, to pay attention to your own life cycles and rhythms and how you choose to align with them.
- Taking time to think through and to act accordingly on the steps needed to bring about balance in the moment and in the ways to move forward.
- Bringing in new directions for new beginnings, letting go of fears of the unknown.
- Ability to listen to and be with the winds of change.
- Changing the direction of fear to one of protection, and looking outside the perimeters to see a larger picture.
- Recognizing the shimmer of confidence within yourself, and knowing that you can trust the moment and the future. By doing so, you naturally let go of anxiety, nervousness, and fear.
Patterns of Imbalance:
- Ongoing fears of the unknown and not understanding where these fears come from
- For those who feel anxious and nervous, especially about letting go of the old and the familiar
- For those afraid of facing the unforeseen and doing new things.
- Inability to let go and to trust the journey.
I consciously take each step along my journey in confidence and trust that my life is unfolding with my own natural rhythms, as I move forward and bring in new ways of being and living.
Chakras: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
Crabapple (Malus spp.)
Quality: Heart Wisdom
Other Names: Wild apple, Pomme d’Api, Lady’s Finger, Wax Apple, and Christmas Apple. Also known as “jewels of the landscape.”
Malus is a genus of about 30–55 species of small deciduous apple trees or shrubs in the family.
Where Found: Temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere, throughout the USA, Canada, Russia, Asia, and Europe.
Wild crabapple habitats include woodlands, woodland openings and borders, grasslands, and thickets, and they grow both in upland and bottomland areas with other deciduous trees in moist, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil. They can survive in adverse conditions with little water during dry weather. Crab apples also adapt to and have the ability to thrive in cold weather.
Elevation: 7,000’ to 8,000’
Height: Average 15’ to 25’, though can grow up to 35’ tall at maturity, with a dense twiggy, yet canopy crown.
Trunk: Short, knotty, somewhat crooked trunk with large branches growing from it.
Bark: Grayish-brown shaggy bark with a reddish hue, furrowed and rough, peels off. Longitudinal scales curve along the tree. Large branches are similar in color though smoother, and smaller thorny branches grow from the larger ones.
The trees grow in numerous shapes such as weeping or pendulous, rounded or canopy-like, spreading horizontal, upright (more columnar), or the shape of a vase, or pyramid.
Roots: Crabapple’s root systems are mostly surface with just a few roots going deeper. The woody roots branch out, and they produce underground runners with clonal offspring.
Flowers: It’s no wonder that crabapples are referred to as “jewels of the landscape,” as they produce the most beautiful, elegant, and attractive showy fuschia and deep pink blossoms. The aromatic blossoms are filled with a fruity fragrance in the Spring that makes your heart sing!
Crabapple’s flowers grow in a group or cluster that is arranged on a stem either from a larger main branch or from an irregular thorny branch. The cluster of flowers shows a specific pattern in which the outer flowers grow on a longer though small stalk and tend to bloom first, so when the inner flowers of the cluster bloom, all are at the same common height.
The flower buds first appear as a small tight jaw (reminding me of a closed down heart), but when the flowers open, they appear in their cluster as a perfect floral arrangement with five symmetrical petals and a burst of stamens with golden yellow anthers that produce pollen. They have a half-inferior ovary where the lower half is embedded in the stem, and the upper half is exposed.
Being in the presence of the flowering crabapple is a heart opening and heart awakening experience that lifts the soul.
Crabapples are cross-pollinated mostly by bees (and insects), which enjoy the flowers for both their nectar and their pollen. Crabapple trees cannot self-pollinate.
Leaves: Ovate-like leaves average from about 1”-2” wide to 2”-3” long. They alternate along the stem and have a slightly saw-toothed margin. The top of the leaf surface is yellowish to bright green in color and hairless. The underside surface of the leaf is a paler green and also hairless. The transition of the leaf from the stem (petiole) is about ¾”-2” long, also hairless, and its color varies from a light green to a bright red.
Fruits: Crabapple fruits are similar to an apple, though they are much smaller and sour tasting. The colorful fruits appear in the Fall and often endure throughout the Winter.
The red fruit is referred to as a “globose pome” or ovoid-shaped fruit that varies in size from about ½”- 2” in diameter. There are five carpels arranged in a star-like shape in the center of the fruit, with each carpel containing 1-2 seeds.
The fruits are rarely eaten raw as they contain malic acid, which causes the sour taste. However, there are some Asian cultures that make the fruit into a sour condiment and eat it with chili peppers or perhaps a shrimp paste.
Crabapples do contain pectin and juiced or canned, can be made into jellies, preserves, and juices.
Properties: Astringent, Malic Acid
Traditional Use: The fruit can be used as an astringent and laxative. A poultice made from crushing the fruit can be used to treat inflammations, abrasions, and small flesh wounds. Bark, especially root bark can be used to destroy parasitic worms, to promote cooling, to induce drowsiness or sleep, and to treat intermittent fevers. Leaves can be dried and drunk as a tea as they contain an antibacterial substance and are pleasant tasting.
The seeds do produce an edible oil and can be extracted along with the pulp to make a cider or juiced drink.
Homeopathic Use: Unknown to Author
Doctrine of Signatures:
- Crabapple buds appear tight jawed, closed down, and due to the pink color, you can’t help but feel the presence of a closed down heart, confused in how to feel, speak, or just be. The opening of the flowers in their clusters yields an energetic presence and awareness of the heart field, offering a joyful uplifting and feeling of connection from deep within the heart. The flowers offer a power of divine mind and innocence, beauty, and mystery of the soul. Residing in this power place of the heart, if we allow the flow of heart, mind, and emotions as one, we can activate that flow from a place of love rather than a place of control or fear. If in the mind we are letting go, we can truly and freely expose the heart and soul by trusting the heart shield from within. Feeling replenished, we bring in wisdom and resources from the heart.
- Crabapple fruit is sour, and the signature for that resembles the crabby person or sour person we meet in our lives or when that crabby nature comes out in ourselves. The fruit is a teacher of how to venture outside of the fence and to manage our boundaries when we feel exposed or controlled by others or conditions that make us feel vulnerable. This signature helps us to get out of our head, let go of our own toxicities, and trust the inner heart shield, feeling safe, loved, and supported depicted by the flower clusters.
Patterns of Balance:
- Ability to trust and surrender into the heart
- Making a conscious choice to activate love over fear and trusting the heart’s flow
- Feeling replenished and cleansed, allowing and trusting the wisdom of what you feel inside your heart to guide you
- Letting go of what you consider as imperfections
- Feeling loved and supported as you cleanse old patterns and let go of the old
Patterns of Imbalance:
- Stuck in the illusion of being in control
- Being and living out of touch with the flow of your heart.
- For those who live in fear (“the wounded child”) and are blameful toward others
- For those who hold grief, unable or unwilling to let go and allow the heart to open
“I love and support myself, trusting in my heart’s wisdom.”
Chakras: 1st and 4th
I’d like to share a short story, which is really a very long story about my experience with the Crabapple tree the day I made my first Crabapple flower essence in April 2016. I drove to Flagstaff to meet Phylis Hogan and DeAnn Tracy at DeAnn’s home where they live in a neighborhood prolific with Crabapples. Upon determining which tree to be with, DeAnn, Mike (her husband), Bodhi (her son), Phylis, and I all gathered around the abundantly flowered tree, feeling the energy of it, taking in its fragrance, and making an essence. It was definitely an experience of the heart, feeling the connection of family and friends, and including the intrigue of a youngster.
While the blossoms of the flowers were infusing in a bowl of water, DeAnn’s dog somehow got out of the fenced yard and ran away to the neighbors down the street, unbeknownst to us. When DeAnn saw her dog and heard an unknown woman walking across the street, she ran to go greet the woman and apologize for her dog. This interaction turned into quite a conflicting event as the woman was extremely upset and shouting her not so kind words that could be heard throughout the neighborhood, including by Bodhi and his friends. It took all DeAnn had to stay in her heart centered power, hold her boundaries, and speak her truths to this unruly woman. It turned out, the woman was visiting from out of state, and her grandmother who lived down the street had just died.
The innocent and harmless dog wandered into the deceased grandmother’s yard which triggered the woman to lash out at DeAnn. The woman verbally attacked DeAnn seemingly from a place of anger, grief, and emotional imbalance and chose to vent her “crabbiness” and illusion of being in control onto DeAnn.
Stories and events that share the signatures of the flowers, plants, and trees seem to show up when I make flower essences. This story is quite profound in all the ways that crabapple flower essence has to offer.
Oak (Quercus gambelii)
Quality: Enduring Strength
Family: Beech (Fagaceae)
Other Names: Rocky Mountain white oak, Live Oak, Gambel’s Oak, Utah White Oak, Fendler’s Oak, Encino
Where Found: Western North America in mountains, plateaus, foothills, and especially mountain ravines where there is runoff from above flourishing on rocky hillsides in alkaline soil with a heavy draw on soil moisture and in full sun.
Elevation: 3,300’ to 9,800’ (though average is 5,000’ to 8,000’)
Height: Shrub to tree up to 50’
Trunk: Up to 2 ½’ diameter though old trees can reach a larger girth, and often you will see them grow as multi-trunks (more than one main trunk).
Bark: Is thick, rough and scaly, brownish-gray. Though the tree’s wood is densely thick, branches are irregular and crooked.
Roots: The tree mainly spreads from its root sprouts, growing from an underground deep-feeding root system called lignotubers that have numerous scattered buds. Rhizomes interconnect clones that intervene with the lignotubers. Clones are generally uniform in their characteristics, such as shape, color, and development. It is fascinating that the oak has the strength and ability to thrive under both morphological adaptations (physical changes that occur over generations based on environmental conditions such as water deficiency), and physiological adaptations (how the oak’s internal response for survival responds to external stimuli, especially drought and moisture, to gain or maintain homeostasis). Its deep root system helps the tree to sustain soil stability and reduce erosion.
Oak trees, in general, are known for their slow and steady growth and the strength of their trunk and limbs.
Flowers: Small male and female flowers grow on the same tree, occurring in the Spring. Males appear as drooping fuzzy catkins that appear with the leaves and the females in clusters with a ring of small leaves or bracts at the base and producing a short spike with a cup shaped growth that evolves into an acorn. The development and production of mature flowers and seeds are based on the availability of moisture. When there is a lot of moisture, both male and female flowers are produced abundantly. Generally, you will see the female flowers throughout the oak canopy and the male flowers located more at the top of the tree.
Leaves: Upper leaves surface is a glossy dark green, while the undersurface is a paler green with soft hairs, velvety in touch. Leaves are oblong, growing up to 6” long and 2.5” broad, with 7 to 11 rounded lobes. In the Fall, trees lace the mountainsides with leaves turning colors to orange, reds, and yellows.
Fruit: Acorns follow the catkins as a brownish, oval, bowl-like cup that grows under an inch long (.75” long and .63” broad) and is enclosed by a cap or cup (called a cupule). As the acorns mature in the Fall, they turn from green to golden brown. Gambel oaks can reproduce from acorns as well as its root system.
The acorns are primarily scattered by rodents and birds and sometimes squirrels.
Properties: Astringent, Tannins, Tannic acid, Gallic acid, and Quercetin
Oak is considered an ally to the Willow in which certain properties of Salicin and its compounds are similar to those of Quercetin.
Traditional Use: As an astringent, a tea can be made from the bark as a wash to treat gum inflammations, a gargle for sore throats, and to drink as an intestinal tonic and for diarrhea. (Michael Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West.)
Michael Moore suggests that hikers and backpackers place the gambel oak in their list of native remedies for first aid intervention as it is easy to identify and easy to access. He also references all parts of the Oak as an antiseptic to treat inflammations, burns, abrasions, and cuts. Leaves can be chewed and used as a poultice for insect bites, and bark can be chewed to treat toothache pain.
Often you will see galls growing on the twigs or small branches of oak trees, known as “oak apples” that are pale yellow-brownish in color and somewhat spongy. Larva hatches from the eggs laid by wasps on the twigs upon which they feed on and secrete an enzyme that forms the shape of a gall. The galls contain tannins/astringents that can also be used externally as a wash, either fresh or dried.
My first experience of taking time to examine galls was with David Holiday in our neighboring Sedona wilderness many years ago. Sure enough, upon opening several galls, we discovered that when fully developed, the gall-wasp enters a chrysalis state, bores a small hole into the side of the gall, and escapes into the air. If you break the gall open, you can see a tiny cavity that holds the remains of the larva. The gall itself has a slight and sweet astringent taste. Nature is so fascinating!
Acorns are generally considered indigestible for human consumption; however, dried and ground acorns can be made into a nourishing flour, as they are composed of a starchy carbohydrate. Ground acorns have also been used as a coffee substitute.
Gambel oaks are a vital and ecological source of food, shelter, and habitat for many animals including deer, livestock, insects, squirrels, small animals, and birds.
Homeopathic Use: Quercus robar (English Oak), made from a tincture of the peeled and crushed acorns, (Spiritus glandium quercus-Spirit distilled from the tincture), (Aqua glandium quercus – water extract with alcohol), is used to treat spleen, vertigo, deafness, constipation, diarrhea, gout, and intermittent fever and reduce craving for alcoholics. (Clarke and Boericke)
Doctrine of Signatures:
- Oak’s ability to thrive and survive in various climate changes, soil and moisture conditions, and to pace itself slowly in its own growth cycles by depending on its deep root system, demonstrates the nature of Oak’s strength and adaptability to gain, sustain, and maintain homeostasis. Oaks form a strong foundation, as their strength also comes from the inside, forming a structure of “strong bones,” teaching us the importance of what it means to anchor and hold our energy from a place of strength and endurance.
- The rough appearance of Oak’s trunk, irregular branches, bark, and its overall fortitude, shows a signature of its toughness and strength. The bark also represents a sturdy shield, guarding the boundary of our inner strength. By trusting the shield, we are reminded that we, as humans, have choices in the ways we go about our lives. There are times when we may have to get through something, to forge ahead, and to be enduring and strong to accomplish our goals. Yet we can be enduring and strong in the ways we find balance in our lives, in our inner selves, and the ways we learn to adapt to our environment and situations, nourish ourselves, and be creative in allowing our life flow to unfold naturally.
- Oak’s catkins/flowers are strong and fuzzy; they find their hold on the stem and don’t seem to let go. Although letting go is certainly a needed lifelong process for each of us every day, the catkins also show us when to grab on and to feed our own strength in those times of need to empower who we are. I like the signature and the meaning of the word “gall” as related to the galls that grow on the tree as sometimes it takes a lot of “gall” or nerve to stand up for ourselves, to speak our truths, and then through some amazing miracle or chrysalis state, we find a breath of fresh air as we transform and move forward in life, leaving only a slight imprint of the past behind.
- Acorns have intrigued me since I was a child. They have those tiny little hats and sturdy round bodies. You can create the most wonderful nature art with acorns and also use them as buttons. As the fruit of the tree, acorns offer yet another creative endeavor, a developmental stage of true originality that sparks inspiration and encourages new ideas, as forward motion in something exciting to look forward to in moving on. Like the squirrel gathering acorns for the winter, it has food and sustenance to look forward to that feeds its soul, body, and mind.
Patterns of Balance:
- Ability to anchor and protect your energy field while feeling grounded, balanced, and strong in who you are
- Ability to nourish your strength from deep inside
- Knowing who you are from a place of strength and fortitude with the ability to adapt to life situations in ways that sustain and nourish you
- Helps you to trust your foundation of self, allowing you to be inspired and creative from within to without as you move forward in your life
Patterns of Imbalance:
- Feeling insecure and not connected to something stabilizing
- Lack of inner strength, endurance, and solid structure
- For those who are over-tired, fatigued, and overworked, looking for balance in their lives
- For those who feel hopelessness and despair
“I am anchored in the power of my being and true to my own inner strength.”
Chakras: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
Olive (Oleo manzanillo)
Quality: Peace Tree
Other Names: Unknown to Author
Where Found: Originally from the Mediterranean (Spain), likes well-drained soil and full sun, survives best in non-frost areas, and can tolerate cycles of drought. Loves living by the seacoast.
Is considered as an evergreen-deciduous tree and known as the oldest cultivated tree dating back to more than 5,000 years.
Height: Ranges from 20’ to 30’. It is a low-spreading tree that makes it easier to manage and harvest.
Trunk: Known as a multi-trunk (more than one main trunk or stem), oval-shaped tree, may grow cankers, which are dead places on the trunk or bark on main branches, possibly by injury or bacteria; however, these cankers do not seem to interrupt the growth or yield of the tree.
Bark: Gray, smooth, knotty at the base. Branches are smooth, slender, and firm, yet bending. Young stems shoot up straight into the sky, while older stems dangle/droop from branches. The stems are smooth, olive green, and firm yet flexible. There are numerous thin branches with smaller branchlets growing in opposites.
Roots: Root system is generally shallow, penetrating 3-4 feet deep into the soil. There are reports of roots in certain olive species found 49 feet from the tree trunk as well as living more than 1000 years.
Flowers: Creamy white flowers grow as a cylindrical flower cluster in a slender and drooping catkin. Flowers appear in pairs and are petalless with stamens fertile with pollen. Catkins are a lime green/pale green and grow in small clusters from a single leaf stem. They are bitter tasting and offer a strong presence with a feeling of gentle grace. Infused with water, the catkins/blossoms carry a refreshing and aromatic taste and smell that invigorates and uplifts.
Leaves: Emerging from a short stalk on a branch, narrow pale green leaves with a silver lining and one central vein grow in opposites with single leaves in between. Darker shiny green on the topside, paler green and silvery on the underside. Lanceolate leaves appear sleek, elegant, strong, smooth, yet leathery.
Fruits: Develop from summer into fall into an ovoid or apple shape that begins light green in color and when mature, becomes black with a hint of purple, into a size of about an inch. It offers an excellent flesh-to-pit ratio, and the texture of the olive fruit is considered superb and also easy to remove the seed from the flesh. These attributes make it popular for processors of pitted and stuffed olives and for pressing the fruit into oil, which produces a rich green color with an abundant fruity flavor making it a fine grade oil. “Manzanillo” is one of the most common olive trees for commercial growing and shown to be one of the heaviest yields of fruit.
Properties: Rich in antioxidants, oleic acid (useful to protect the heart), polyphenols (reduces oxidative stress in the brain), iron, monounsaturated fats, various minerals, and vitamins.
Traditional Use: The olive tree has an ancient history with great value not only for its fruit and oil as nutrition, or leaves for crowns, but also for its longevity and its recognition as a symbol of goodness and purity, happiness and peace.
The olive branch also represents a symbol of peace and even victory and was worn by brides and virgins from the customs of ancient Greece. The olive tree is culturally known to the West as well as to the Mediterranean basin.
Also, known as the tree of wisdom in various cultures, it is believed that the gods gifted the olive tree to the people. The symbol of the Goddess Athena holding an olive branch beside the owl also represents peace.
The leaves of olive can be used as an extract, an herbal tea, and a powder and are considered an astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and hypocholesterolemic; along with the bark and made into a tea, it can help to reduce fevers.
Thus, olive leaf treats viral and bacterial infections relating to influenza, pneumonia, shingles, herpes, the common cold, ear and tooth infections, and is even known to cure hepatitis B. Also good for high blood pressure, diabetes, hay fever, diarrhea, and digestive issues.
The oil soothes and protects irritated tissue and is also a laxative. It can help relieve stings and burns and is good to use for liniments. The wonderful healing and nourishing properties of olive oil can be made into a lubricant for the skin such as in lotions, salves, ointments, etc., to treat a variety of conditions (irritated skin, muscular and joint issues, chills, chest complaints, diaper rashes, and more). Olive oil is known to prevent heart attacks and stroke, cardiovascular disease (lowering blood pressure), and to prevent breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and migraine headaches.
The oil is also used as a cleanser in liver or gallbladder detoxes or to boost bacteria in the gut.
Olives are filled with vitamins and minerals that include Vitamin E, copper, calcium, sodium, and other plant compounds that are particularly high in antioxidants. One serving of olives a day helps to improve memory and is a rich source of iron.
The curing process of olives includes the addition of vinegar which also helps to support good health. Low in calories, though high in healthy monounsaturated fats, Vitamin E, and antioxidant phytonutrients, including polyphenols, olives can also help a person lose weight and offer nutrient-rich heart-healthy support.
Olive oil is a delightful nutrient for cooking and salads.
Homeopathic Use: Unknown to Author
Doctrine of Signatures:
- Due to the symbolism of its history and the powerful energetic field that the olive tree demonstrates and emits, one can’t help but feel a sense of deep wisdom, strength, and peace from being in the presence of this tree. The branches are strong and bending, yet yield an elegant and gentle grace. The tree itself seems to hold its ground; it leans toward the earth, yet its branches reach toward the sky, anchoring a feeling of balance and rest while sitting under the tree.
- The presence of the olive tree also brings a feeling of being guided or directed from the inside, from a peaceful state of being in the moment, not looking behind or ahead.
- The natural flow of the tree, similar to the energy of willows, also shares a balance of giving and receiving, of trusting the flow, of allowing life to unfold on its own, of giving up control.
Patterns of Balance:
- Allowing yourself and your life experiences to unfold naturally rather than trying to be in control of them
- “Trusting your inner guidance with a gentle presence”
- Conscious engagement of living life peacefully from within to without
- Honoring your thoughts and feelings as well as your lifestyle that brings you balance and flow
Patterns of Imbalance:
- Struggling with being in control of yourself, others, and life situations
- Feeling overwhelmed and worn out in every way
- Feeling out of balance and lacking peace within yourself and your life’s choices
- Inability to choose a direction and to honor and allow it to unfold on its own
“With gentle grace, I live in peace, and allow my life to unfold naturally.”
Chakras: 6th and 7th
*With gratitude to Rennie and Andrea Radoccia for sharing their most beautiful Manzanillo olive tree with me.
Walnut (Juglans major)
Primary Quality: New Directions
Other Names: Nogal, Black Walnut, “Nux” (Romans), “Wallnuss” (Germans), “Jupiter’s nuts”
Where Found: Near streams, canyons in the higher desert, grasslands and meadows. woodlands
Elevation: 3,500’ to 7,000”
Height: Can grow up to 40’ to 60’ tall with a crown of branches that spread out sporadically
Trunk: Up to 3’ and sometimes larger in circumference, thick and massive
Bark: Grayish brown, rough, and rugged as the tree matures. Young shoots are tender and smooth.
Roots: Extend up to 50 feet or more from the trunk and secrete a natural herbicide known as juglone that prevents other forms of plants from growing within their reach, including their own offspring. Black walnuts need deep, fertile soil with a near-neutral or a touch of acidic pH. They live nearly disease-free with very few pests that threaten them.
Flowers: Both male and female flowers grow separately on the same tree. Male flowers are a hanging catkin with a calyx of five or six scales encircled by stamens. The female flowers grow in an erect cluster and have a calyx that closely surrounds the ovary, bearing two or three fleshy stigmas.
Leaves: Pinnately compound, smooth and shiny and lime-green on top, duller green underneath, though young leaf shoots are reddish-green and grow up to 4 to 4 1/2” long, 1 or so inches wide. Mature leaves are coarsely toothed and lance-shaped, aromatic and spicy, and can grow up to 14” long. Walnut leaves are one of the first trees to lose their leaves in the fall and the last tree to leaf out in the spring.
Fruits: Hard-shelled and round and generally produce nuts in a cycle with a more abundant crop about every 5-6 years that increasingly grow more with each year.
Properties: The active ingredient of the walnut tree, including all its parts—leaves, roots, husks, fruit (the epicarp), bark and the nuts—is nucin or juglone, which is harmful and growth-stunting to many other plants.
Traditional Use: Walnut wood is a valuable and unique species of hardwoods, used for cabinetry, furniture making, and many kinds of wooden objects and novelties.
Generally, the bark and leaves are dried and contain properties as an alterative, laxative, astringent, and detergent used to treat various types of problems that may include tuberculosis, lymph nodes, eczema, herpes, internal ulcerations, inflammations, mucous and hemorrhagic discharges, diarrhea, tumors, cancers, abscesses, boils, skin itch and irritations, ringworms, shingles, as a purgative, and more. The husk, shell, and peel cause sweating, especially when green for destroying all worms.
Juice of the green husks (and boiled with honey) is used for sore throats and as a mouth gargle, and the water from the husks can be used externally for wounds.
Harvest time for walnuts is during the month of August. The thin cover on their green hull about the size of a baseball, but softer like a softball, starts to crack open and exposes the hard-shelled brownish nut inside which is about the size of a lemon. The actual walnut kernel consists of two ridged (bi-lobed), light brown lobes, characterizing the human brain and keeping their reputation from ancient days as a symbol of intellectualism. The lobes are covered with a papery thin skin, and the two lobes are attached together in the center.
Walnut kernels offer a rich source of nutritional benefits including minerals (manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium), antioxidants (melatonin, ellagic acid, vitamin-E, carotenoids, and polyphenolic compounds known to offer health benefits against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases), vitamins (B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates), protein, and in particular, monounsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid and omega-3 essential acids which support a healthy blood lipid profile.
A handful of walnuts daily may help to lower total cholesterol and LDL while improving HDL blood levels, thus diminishing chances for stroke and coronary artery disease and protection from colon, breast, and prostate cancers.
Walnut oil can be used in skincare, as it helps the skin to preserve moisture and prevent dryness. The oil can also be used in cooking, as a carrier oil in aroma and massage therapies, and in cosmetics.
Walnut oil and walnut butter both transmit a beautiful nutty and delicious flavor, gentle to the taste buds.
Homeopathic Use: A tincture of the whole plant may be useful for cutting the wisdom tooth. – “A Modern Herbal” Volume II – Editor p. 842
Doctrine of Signatures:
- The outer green husk as a covering for the walnut offers a signature of the head, resembling the external skin of the skull (the pericranium) and corresponds to the ability to know how to protect oneself from the outside world to prevent unnecessary hardships. It teaches us to learn how to adapt to and endure hardships, if and when they do occur, and to step into new places while feeling shielded or protected.
- The fruit of the walnut or the smooth inner woody shell around the kernel demonstrates the signature of a human skull, offering yet another layer of protection for the actual kernel. This signature serves as a shield, allowing us to explore and trust the depths from deep within while feeling encircled with protection, allowing us to move forward as needed.
- The walnut kernel lies secure within its shell that is layered by the covering of the outer husk. Finding its place in the center, two halves joined as one, the kernel resembles the balance between the left and right atrium, left and right ventricles and corresponding tricuspid valve and mitral valve of the human heart. In addition, the walnut kernel’s bi-lobed signature also characterizes the human brain and the true intellect of the brain which comes from living in the heart, being true to oneself in harmony with both the brain and the heart. This symbiotic relationship brings in a natural state of balance, inner strength, and inner stability reinforcing and supporting the journey of the soul.
- The natural property of juglone, which is in every part of the walnut tree, offers a signature of strength, endurance, and protection that wards off predators, pests, and other plant life. This signature also refers to learning how to live dis-ease free, warding off the dangers that inhibit vitality.
- Male catkins are protected with a calyx of scales encircled by stamens, and female flowers are protected by a calyx that closely surrounds the ovary. The calyx has a sense of position, of strategy, of knowing its place. These signatures resemble that of knowing how to protect and guard your energies, while remaining true to yourself and living the path of your soul purpose.
- Catkins are plush and firm and taste bitter. They offer a sense of vibrancy, of tenacity to stay true to oneself, to learn from the journey behind you, and to trust the journey that lies ahead.
- When the walnut hulls fall from the tree, those that bounce away from the tree stand a much better chance of surviving than those that fall into the soil of the parent tree that is spread with juglone. This is a signature depicting the parents’ role to support the child to trust and move forward in life, allowing the child to find a new direction, yet offering guidance and support.
This signature symbolizes our ability to move forward, yet to trust our roots and to feel grounded and anchored by the soul’s journey.
Patterns of Balance:
- Ability to move forward yet being guided by your roots and anchored by your soul
- Ability to protect oneself from the outside world, and to know how to adapt to and endure hardships while staying strong and grounded especially in times of struggle
- Remaining true to yourself and your soul purpose
- Ability to explore and trust the depths of life’s experiences and allow them to unfold naturally
- Allowing your personal journey to trust from deep within, letting go of the past, living in the moment, and moving forward into the future, with strength and endurance, not looking back.
Patterns of Imbalance:
- For those who lack vitality and who feel insecure
- Inability to find ways to anchor yourself in order to have the strength and endurance needed to move forward in your life
- Inability to trust or tap into those places deep within that offer you guidance and strength
- For those who give up easily and who have difficulty recognizing ways to empower themselves
- For those who have difficulty letting go of the old
“I trust that the core of my inner strength will carry me through life in a loving way.”
Chakras: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th
Willow (Salix goodingii)
Primary Quality: Forgiveness
Family: Willow (Salicaceae)
Other Names: Goodding Willow, Western Black Willow, Dudley Willow
Where Found: Along banks and streams in the western U.S. and river valleys in northern Mexico (riparian areas from northern California to southern Utah, southeast through New Mexico to the Texas panhandle, and west to Arizona and southern California
Elevation: below 7,000′
Height: 20’ to 60’
Trunk: Can grow up to 30 inches in diameter and usually has many branches growing from it. The branches are gray, thicker, and rougher toward the bottom, but light, slender, smoother, and yellowish toward the top. In fact, they are so light that they bend and sway gracefully in the wind.
Bark: The grayish bark is thick and rough, with deep indentations that have narrow ridges.
Roots: This willow species has a deep root system that helps stop stream erosion. Root depths grow up to 7 feet and have a deeper main root with small prolific surface roots.
Flowers: Green/white, grow in a small, clustered spike that consists of tiny, unisexual, petalless flowers called “catkins.” The tiny closed flowers alternate along the stem and are followed by white cottony seeds that bud open. The catkins are light and delicate, and grow up to 3 1/2 inches long.
Blooming Period: March through May
Leaves: The shiny leaves are bright green or lime green, narrow, lanceolate, finely toothed, and long-pointed. The curved leaves are longer and larger toward the bottom of the stem and shorter and smaller toward the top of the stem. The leaves have one central vein and can grow up to 5 inches long and 3/4 inch wide.
Properties: The primary active ingredient is salicin extracted from the bark of the willow and used to treat arthritis and rheumatism and as a substitute for quinine.
Traditional Use: There are many species of willow. It is difficult to identify some species due to the variation of leaves and the cross-breeding of different species. Due to the complexity and numbers of willow trees, this section speaks to the general history and uses of a variety of willows. The willow has a fascinating history of uses and symbology. It was considered to be a symbol of death and/or immortality by several cultures. The Chinese viewed it as a symbol of immortality because a new tree can be grown from a small branch.
The willow was sacred to the Greek and Roman goddesses, Circe, Hecate, and Persephone, all of whom are Mother Goddess death aspects. The plant has also been seen as a symbol of mourning in the form of the weeping willow. Ancient Greeks wore willow leaves around the neck after a heartbreaking love affair. Dioscorides prescribed willow for pain and inflammation, and the historically far-removed Hottentots used a willow concoction as a remedy for rheumatic fever.
The American Indians used the willow similarly and passed along this information to the white settlers. They also used branches as poles for tipis and to make sweat lodges, especially in the southwestern U.S., and they provide the structure for hoop weavings and dream catchers. They are known for their flexibility and strength.
Medicinally, willow bark has been used for centuries for its cooling actions to reduce pain and inflammation as well as to lower fevers. In the 1820s, the active ingredient salicin was isolated. In the late 1800s, a German chemist by the name of Felix Hoffman was looking for some relief for his father’s arthritis. He formulated a drug now widely known as aspirin from salicin. Salicin extracted from the bark of the willow was also used as a substitute for quinine. Salicin is an active ingredient used to treat arthritis and rheumatism. Also, by steeping willow bark and twigs in water, you can make a bitter drink to relieve pains and chills.
Various willows have numerous other medicinal uses. They are used to make eye drops, as an astringent, as a sex depressant, for restoration of the stomach and liver, and to treat hay fever, chills, dandruff, diarrhea, earache, flu, heartburn, headache, impotence, chronic inflammation and infection, muscle soreness, night sweats, rheumatism, worms, dysentery, and disability of the digestive organs. Willow’s antispasmodic qualities have been used to treat whooping cough and asthma. The willow herb has wonderful antiseptic qualities and can be used to treat infected wounds, ulcerations, or eczema. This makes it a useful first-aid herb for hikers to be familiar with.
Cosmetically, whole willow is found in face creams, detergents, lotions, and herbal baths due to its astringent properties. As an ornamental plant, willow is valued for its beauty. Willows offer practical landscaping solutions, especially in marshy areas and to stabilize stream banks.
Homeopathic Use: Salix nigra, or Black Willow, is a homeopathic remedy that regenerates the organs of both sexes, treats hysteria and nervousness, restrains genital irritability, and tempers sexual passion. It is used to treat conditions such as red and swollen face, sore and bloodshot eyes, nervousness before and after menses, painful menstruation, excessive menstrual discharge, pain associated with movement of the testicles, and back pain across sacral and lumbar areas.
Doctrine of Signatures:
- A significant signature of the willow is the strong, unique, bitter taste in the leaves and in the flower-essence water. The bitterness that the leaves and flower essence leaves in your mouth is similar to the bad feeling of bitterness toward an experience or person in your life. Emotional bitterness may cause resentment, biting criticism, slashing or snapping out, and a feeling of vengefulness. It may also feed on the feeling of being a victim in an unjust world. When injustice is experienced, an emotional bitterness toward life may be carried over into other situations and relationships.
The lesson of this signature is to be aware of how bitterness thrives within each of us. Rather than falling into victim consciousness or vengeful consciousness, we need to find a way to gather the power to come into our heart to let go of the bitterness and resentment. The acts of injustice done by others will sooner or later come back around to them, and these injustices will be taken care of in a natural way that is much bigger than us.
- The willow tree likes dampness and commonly grows along rivers and streams. Growing near water represents deep emotions which, if not allowed to flow with the waters, are kept inside where unhappiness, resentment, and bitterness can grow. The willow’s deep root system holds the soil and stops streambank erosion. When the creek or stream rises, the willow holds the soil together to keep it from being eaten or worn away. This signature also relates to the one previously mentioned—when we are able to “keep it together,” we can prevent ourselves from being worn out by the bitterness of others so that our own bitterness does not seep in. The positive willow will give a person the needed inner strength (related, again, to holding the soil together) to flow with the water or emotions and to release whatever bitterness, feelings of despair, or resentment a person is holding onto.
- The thick, rough ridges of the lower bark also symbolize our own rough emotional edges and our ability to deal with barriers in life that may appear to hold us back and drain our energy. Yet these barriers help us grow in our own inner strength. The upper branches are smooth, graceful, and flexible. They dance and move with the wind—with the ebb and flow of life’s wisdom and grace. This signature relates to our ability to be flexible in the way we approach life and all living beings. Willow also demonstrates flexibility and the flow of life in the way it grows along water and is nurtured by it. If you try to force the branches to bend, they may snap; when they are moistened in water, they gain even more
strength, endurance, and ability to stretch and bend.
- The green tiny catkin flowers are petalless. They gently and humbly hang along the stem. They represent the fourth chakra, the heart. The opening of our hearts helps us let go of resentments and emotional wounds, past hurts, suffering, and bitterness. Slowly, tiny white cottony seeds emerge from the opening bud and expand into a soft cotton down covering the catkin, becoming exposed to the light. This signature relates to the seventh chakra, the expansion of consciousness, and the ability to seek and gain higher spiritual awareness in spite of our challenges. The passage from the closed, bitter, limiting catkin to the white cottony seed-bud opening is symbolic of reaching a broader understanding with ourselves and the Divine Power that is bigger than, yet inclusive of, the physical world and our experiences in it.
Patterns of Balance:
- Helps us take our personal matters to their root cause, encouraging us to understand ourselves and any bitterness, resentment, or roughness that we may feel.
- Teaches us to be flexible in the ways we approach life and all living things and to move with the ebb and flow of life’s wisdom and grace.
- Helps prevent ourselves from being worn out by the bitterness of others so that our own bitterness does not seep in.
- Helps us understand ourselves as a system of energy, guiding us to be mindful of the situations we find ourselves in and to expand our conscious awareness of our biological heritage.
- Helps us find compassion within ourselves, open our hearts toward others, and act accordingly.
Patterns of Imbalance:
For those who:
- Feel resentment and emotional bitterness, especially related to unjust situations or people; symptoms of sleeplessness, restlessness, and impatience may develop
- Lash out blamefully, criticize others in a vengeful manner, and have closed down hearts
- Lack flexibility in how they approach life and carry grudges against others
- Feel victimized in an unjust world
- Are patient, understanding, and compassionate as long as they possibly can be in challenging situations until they are set off by people who are petty, who stretch boundaries, who take them to the edge where they snap when such injustices become blatant and unnerving, then impatience, restlessness, and bitterness seep in.
“As I am generous and forgiving of myself and others, resentments are released.”
Chakras: 4th and 7th
*A special thanks to Rosemarie Brown and Sandi O’Connor for their friendship, inspirational conversations, and loving support on this journey.
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