Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hundsholz - Dogwood

In full bloom right now are the beautiful Dogwood trees (Deitsch: es Hundsholz or die Kornelkasch; tax: Cornus spp.). The most commonly encountered dogwood species in the Deitscherei is Cornus florida. Most people think that the four large yellowish bracts (Deitsch: Draagbledder) are the flowers, but the true Dogwood flowers (Deitsch: Hundsblumme) are the small yellow-green clusters in the center of the bracts. 



Dogwood is one of the Nine Sacred Herbs of Braucherei. It is one of the Three of Wood, though its medicinal and spiritual uses are not limited to the woody parts of the tree.

Medicinally, the primary uses have been to use the bark of the tree as a remedy for fever (Deitsch: Fiewer, Hitz), malaria (es Kaltfiewer), scarlet fever (Schallach) and typhus and typhoid fever. Brendle & Unger (89) describe that,
"No distinction was made between typhoid and typhus. Two forms of this type of fever were, however, recognized: typhoid of the head and typhoid of the body. The former was sometimes referred to as Haernfiewer,  which is to be distinguished from cerebral meningitis and mastoiditis which are haernentzinding" (Haernentzinding is "brain fever").
They continue:
Beesfiewer, apparently, is quite definitely restricted to typhoid types. Naervefiewer... means neurosis, nervous fever. The term, however, was more generally used for typhoid fever. 
Other terms that cover typhus or typhoid are Hitzichgrankheet ("hot sickness") and Schleichfiewer ("sneaking fever" or walking typhoid).

Each of these fevers is believed, even today, to have a "breaking day," and they are days with uneven numbers, particularly three, five, seven, and nine.

Regarding the use of Dogwood decoctions, Brendle & Unger write (91):
"Among the English it is customary in case of fever to receive from the doctor powdered china, or, in English, Jesuits' bark, and it proves beneficial in many cases.

'This powder they, likewise, recommend to their German neighbors and its benefits many, but it is very expensive because it is brought from China. In Pennsylvania, it can be gotten gratis for it is the bark of the root of the tree called ironwood or dogwood, the English name Dackwood. It is good for use the whole year through, but in spring with the sap ascends it is most easily peeled off and is most powerful.'"
Disclaimer: This information is for educational and discussion purposes only. Nothing in these posts is intended to constitute, or should be considered, medical advice or to serve as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider. Feverfew may thin the blood, so people on blood thinners should be careful with its use. Also, as the herb is used in inducing menstruation, pregnant women should avoid using this herb. As always, your health is your responsibility. Consult with a doctor before using any herbal remedy or preventative.

Decoctions of the bark (Hundsrinn) are said to aid with hemorrhoids. Tinctures of leaf or bark applied to the skin can reduce eczema and other skin conditions. Decoctions of Dogwood leaves are said to kill ringworm, and the fruit added into teas can aid with diarrhea. Poultice of the bark can aid with external ulcers or sores. Hundsbeere (dogberries) also have some antimicrobial, and liver-protecting properties, and the herb can be used as a natural emetic.

Spiritually speaking, shavings or cuttings of the bark may be worn in any form or carried as amulets, and the bark, bracts, or the flowers may be burned to break hexes.

Note: There is a Verbot or taboo on the cutting of Dogwood for decorative purposes. The sacredness of this plant requires that it be available to those in need in as much quantity as is needed. Dogwood may be cut as offerings to deity but not to ancestor or land spirit; it is better to leave the tree intact in the latter cases.

Resource

Brendle, Thomas R. and Claude W. Unger. Folk Medicine of the Pennsylvania GermansProceedings of the Pennsylvania German Society 45. Norristown, PA, 1935.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bettseecher - Dandelion

You know who I am, but do you really know me? I am Dandelion, or Taraxacum officinale.


Chemical companies reap profits hand over fist by telling you I am an enemy. Even some of the many names for me elicit giggles from their literal meanings. In Deitsch, I am known by several names: Bettseecher ("bed-pisser"), Pissebett ("piss-the-bed"), and the less onerous Biddre-Selaat ("bitters-salad"), Hinkelselaat ("chicken salad"), and Kiehlblumm ("cool flower"). 

These names belie my nature. Folklore reveals my noble roots. I am the child of Sunna and Muun. The rays of my mother and the reflected beams from my father tell me where to grow. When I am young, I look like my mother, beaming in radiant yellow. When I age, I take on my father's features, appearing as a grayish globe until I set my seeds to the wind. My spirit is said to aid in calming anxiety and in attracting the attention of land spirits.

I am of the tribe called Cichorieae, where my extended family includes Chicory/Succory (Deitsch: Andivdi or Ungaarischer Selaat; tax: Chicorium intybus), with whom I share many herbal properties. In fact, Deitsch herbalist Christopher Sauer (310-313) lists me under the header of Succory in his botanical because our properties were considered to be so similar. I am cool and dry in my nature, and Sauer cites these aspects as being helpful in remedying inflammation of the liver, a function for which my root is best known. 

As I appear in the spring, it is tradition in many parts of the Deitscherei to gather my leaves and flowers for a traditional salad that is prepared with a hot bacon dressing. Christians consume this salad on Griener Dunnerschdaag (Maundy Thursday) or Easter, and Urglaawer at Oschdre... and many Deitsch eat it throughout the season. This salad is a Spring Tonic, helping to remove toxins by stimulating the gallbladder, the liver, and the kidneys. 

Speaking of the kidneys, my most common Deitsch name does reveal the fact that I am a diuretic, which can help to reduce blood pressure by reducing the volume of fluid within the body.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational and discussion purposes only. Nothing in these posts is intended to constitute, or should be considered, medical advice or to serve as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider. Feverfew may thin the blood, so people on blood thinners should be careful with its use. Also, as the herb is used in inducing menstruation, pregnant women should avoid using this herb. As always, your health is your responsibility. Consult with a doctor before using any herbal remedy or preventative.

Among my other uses are treatments for constipation, gallstones (Galleschtee), acne, psoriasis (Schuppeflocke), eczema, edema/swollen ankles, insomnia, and other ailments. Wine made from me has long been used as a cure for colds (Folklore Fragments 118).

My root has been worn as an amulet to protect against cataracts (Brendle & Unger 124), and tea from my root is said to help one's nerves (Lick & Brendle 73).

Despite my astonishing array of medicinal and self-maintenance, though, humans continue to treat me like I am harming them with my very presence in their yards. Take some time to get to know me, and you may find I have a lot to offer you!

Resources

Brendle, Thomas R. and Claude W. Unger. Folk Medicine of the Pennsylvania Germans. Proceedings of the Pennsylvania German Society 45. Norristown, PA, 1935.

Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, p. 141 New York: Dorling and Kindersley, 2000.

Fogel, Edwin Miller. Beliefs and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Germans. Millersville, PA: Center for Pennsylvania German Studies, 1995.

Folklore Fragments. Keystone Folklore Quarterly 9, 1964.

Lick, David E. and Thomas R. Brendle. Plant Names and Plant Lore among he Pennsylvania Germans. Proceedings of the Pennsylvania German Society 33. Norristown, PA, 1922.

Weaver, William Woys. Sauer's Herbal Cures: America's First Book of Botanic Healing. New York: Routledge, 2001.