Medicine From Destruction
Robin McGee, a community herbalist & educator, has been studying, using and creating herbal medicines and products for more than a decade. McGee teaches herbal medicine classes to foster a deep connection between plants & people and to teach sustainability and self-sufficiency by using the plants & trees that grow around us for food and medicine. We invited her to write a column for us.
Tornadoes, Damaged Trees, and Poison Ivy:
It’s Almost Summer!
Driving back home from Virginia the first week in May, I saw the effects of one of the many tornadoes that had devastated parts of the south days before. Having been away from television and the internet for a few days I wasn’t aware of the horrible weather folks had been experiencing.
The first sign I saw along the interstate was an Oak tree that had the top broken out of it. My first thought upon seeing the broken tree was “what are the crazy people doing now?”
A little further down the interstate I saw that all the trees on the side of the road had their tops broken out. Thinking that I should stop and try to rescue some plants from some fool's idea of progress, and just before becoming irate at the thought of machinery tearing down the trees, I glanced over to the other side of the interstate to find what looked like a war zone.
We’ve all seen the remnants of tornado damage on the evening news, but I have never had a front row seat to this reality show before. Homes appeared to have exploded with memories scattered everywhere, tractor trailers were twisted and piled up like a box full of taffy, and businesses were unable to operate. The entire valley was wiped out as far as the eye could see. I thought of Sherman’s march to sea and the war of northern aggression.
The few trees left intact were filled with clothing and insulation from what just days earlier was a neighborhood. After saying a prayer for All My Relations in the area, I felt a sadness wash over me as I thought about the trees.
I have had a love affair with trees my whole life. As a little girl I would climb up into one of the pecan trees in my grandparent’s yard, so I could sit on a branch high above my cousin and eat my candy in peace. In my teenage years, the forest was my refuge from the craziness of a so-called civilized world. Today, as an herbalist, I still look to the trees for comfort, strength, and to give ease.
Since the beginning trees have given us shade, shelter, food, tools, and beauty. But did you know that trees also offer us magic and medicine?
One of my greatest allies is White Oak. Oak teaches us strength, protection, and healing, and is considered a symbol of the continuance of life. As a child I would try to catch a falling leaf to bring good luck and no colds in the winter.
Carrying an acorn is thought to guard against pain and illness, increase longevity, and preserve youthfulness. The acorn is also a symbol of fertility, sexual potency, and the continuance of life. I remember hearing my grandfather talk about “stump meetings,” prayer meetings & worship services held by slaves in Oak groves. Merlin worked his magic in Oak groves and his wand was from the topmost branch of an Oak tree.
Oak is the tree most frequently struck by lightning and as such is associated with the thunder gods and the fire element. It is the tree most sacred to the Druids. The Flower Essence of Oak is given to those who wish to build strength and fortitude, those who never stop struggling, and those who are fearful of exploring new talents or aspects of self.
I make and use White Oak tincture for its physical healing properties. It is without a doubt the best remedy I have ever used for poison ivy rash. It’s also useful for hemorrhoids, varicose veins, bleeding gums and ulcers, and in fact will stop most any bleeding internally and externally.
To make an extract, or tincture, from White Oak simply take a green twig no larger in diameter than your little finger, cut the twig into one-inch pieces and put them in a clean canning jar. Next, fill the jar with 100-proof vodka, put the lid on, and shake the jar everyday for six weeks, keeping it away from heat and sunlight. After six weeks the liquid can be strained (or not) and used directly on poison ivy rash. Relief from the maddening itching comes almost instantly. Apply as often as needed. The White Oak tincture will dry up the rash in just a few days. It stops other itches, too, like mosquito bites.
If the tornado gods (aka HAARP) deem it necessary to devastate your neighborhood this year and you lose a White Oak, don’t just toss it on the fire. Re-member your birthright, and make a jar of White Oak tincture to have on hand for the poison ivy rash you or someone you love is sure to get while cleaning up the destruction. And say a prayer for the trees.
Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs by Gail Faith Edwards.
Personal and clinical experience – Robin McGee.
Conversations with Kate Gilday of woodlandessence.com, and David Dalton of deltagardens.com.
Amarjah Wisdom School
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