“I love color. I love the effect of colours communicating with one another to generate emotion. I seek freedom and liberation within constraints. Healing is my muse and as it merges with my art, it is also my purpose.”
Medicinal Plant Mural
The mural I completed in 2021 is located in Armstrong, BC on the building of the late House of Armstrong. Sadly, the business has since closed, but the art still stands. I’d love to share the information regarding the medicinal properties of these beautiful plants featured on the wall.
The elder shrub has a long history of use for food and medicine, providing two important medicines. The summer flowers ease allergies and cold symptoms with gentle antihistamine activity and break a fever via diaphoretic effects. The berries prevent viral infection via a protein within the berries which has been shown to inhibit a virus from penetrating a cell wall, thereby stoping its ability to replicate. Elderberries are filled with phytonutrients that ward off infection and modulate inflammation, reducing associated pain. French herbalist Bernard Bertrand says elder has so many properties, it’s often simply called the house pharmacy. Elderberries are delicious when made into syrup, gummies, jam and wine. Elderflowers make delicious jelly.
Cannabis sativa has a plethora of medical uses and has been used for centuries as medicine in Asia, Africa, India and Latin America. All parts the plant can be used for medicinal purposes; the seeds, leaves, flowers and roots. One of the oldest Chinese medicine books states that cannabis roots were used to relieve pain and inflammation. The roots were also juiced for use as a diuretic and to stop bleeding during childbirth. In many recent studies, the painkilling and sedative properties of the roots for conditions such as skin rash and hemorrhoids are highlighted. The cannabidiolic acid (CBD) extracted from the young cannabis buds is also very powerful antiseptic. It can be used to treat skin diseases and it is also helpful in relieving any kind of pain and discomfort. Cannabis can help people with epilepsy, inhibiting a seizure from happening. It can also be used to assist people with glaucoma; the seeds are effective in reducing intraocular pressure and retarding processes that cause blindness. Cannabis assists people with eating disorders like anorexia, as it stimulates the appetite. The plant is also very advantageous to those who often vomit and feel nauseous. Cannabis can even be used to improve illness by people contending with AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and depression. Cannabinol (CBN), is a treatment for insomnia and other sleeping disorders.
Every part of mullein has medicinal virtues. It has been used as a medicine for thousands of years; Greek physician Dioscórides was recommending it for coughs more than 2,000 years ago! Herbalists continue to use mullein leaves to support people with asthma or bronchitis or for those inhaling irritants like pollution or wildfire smoke. Mullein flower tea subdues the herpes simplex virus, for adults and children alike. It also has anti-viral properties against influenza. Mullein flowers are best known as an earache remedy. Mullein flower-infused oil acts as an anodyne to take away the pain of an earache while also exerting lymphatic action on the area around the ear to help resolve infection. Mullein root can strengthen the bladder and is used for incontinence caused by stress, pregnancy or menopause, as well as childhood incontinence. Recently mullein root has also become popularized for relief of back pain, tendonitis and arthritis.
The flowers and roots of arnica (Arnica Montana) are used to treat many health issues. It can be taken orally as a homeopathic tablet or used topically with gels, ointments, and creams. It works by improving blood flow to the areas of tissue damage, thereby assisting in the healing process. In homoeopathy, arnica is very effective in treating injuries ranging from mild falls and contusions to severe traumas like head and spine injuries. Arnica is also considered helpful for treating ostearthritis. Traumeel or Traumacare are homeopathic preparations used to treat inflammatory conditions with similar effectiveness as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Used topically, arnica helps heal swelling to skin, muscle bleeding and inflammation deep in the muscle fibers. It is of great help in reducing pain from fractures. Another condition where arnica does great wonders is in the re-absorption of blood. Where there is brain hemorrhage, for example, arnica accelerates the absorption of blood clots. It is therefor also thought to reduce the effects of micro blood clots, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
All parts of Echinacea stimulate the immune system, boost white blood cells, and increase lymph detoxification. Though now popular for viral infections, it was traditionally used for healing bacterial infections, early stages of sepsis as well as a topical and internal anitvenom remedy for snake and other potentially dangerous bites. It is a reliable herb for addressing infected wounds and teeth, as well as skin abscesses. The most popular use of the colorful herb is for fighting cold and flu viruses. A recent study found that the formulation of echinacea and elderberry was just as effective as taking the commonly prescribed influenza pharmaceutical drug – oseltamivir. Use all parts, but the fresh root is the most potent part of this prairie wildflower.
Rich in bioflavonoids, rose hips are the perfect example of food as medicine. Eating them regularly can reduce oxidative stress, which is considered an underlying cause of many chronic inflammatory diseases: arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The phytonutrients in rose hips modulate inflammation, therefore decreasing inflammatory pain, such as that of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Rose hip powder, has been shown to improve blood pressure and plasma cholesterol, thus reducing cardiovascular risk factors, commonly rooted in inflammation. Rose hips are infamous for their vitamin C content, which is highest in fresh rose hips. High in phytochemicals, they contain many other vitamins as well, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, beta-carotene, quercetin, tocopherols and lycopene.
Leaves, stems, roots and seeds of this native food are all edible. Native people have refined the art of preparing this food through grinding seeds to be used as flour for making cakes. The seeds can also be eaten raw or used for cooking oil as they are high in oil content. The young tissues of the roots contain upwards of 30% protein, making this a valuable food source. The roots of balsam root have many medicinal uses and have antibacterial properties. The resins of the roots are supportive for the respiratory system, and act as a stimulating expectorant and are useful for colds, flus, and cases of respiratory distress. Poultices of leaves and roots can been used to relieve blisters, sores, insect bites, burns and other wounds. Infusions and decoctions of the roots can be used to treat fevers, headaches, stomach aches and more. Native people have refined the art of using smoke from the roots of balsam root to relieve body aches and pains.
Strongly flavored, the bulbs and leaves of the nodding onion plant can be eaten raw or cooked. The flowers are also edible and have a delicious strong onion flavor. The whole plant has mild medicinal activity similar to that of garlic. It is used specifically as a poultice on the chest for the treatment of respiratory ailments. The juice of the plant has been used in the treatment of kidney stones. It is also useful in treating colds and sore throats. A poultice of the plant can be applied externally to various infections such as sore throats, sores, swellings, chest and pleurisy pains. The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles and the juice can be used topically to repel biting insects.
Purple Aster (New England Aster)
New England aster can be used as a tincture made from the fresh flowering tops. It also has a diaphoretic action when used as a hot tea, which is beneficial for colds and the flu when some discomfort and restlessness is present. Combining the fresh flower tincture to the tea is extra supportive. This approach helps to soothe overly tense respiratory tissues, ease a cough, clear sinuses, lessen headaches, and release congestion. New England aster has an affinity for both the upper and lower respiratory system. It is said to be decongesting, antispasmodic, and relaxing to the lungs. It is particularly useful for seasonal allergies and colds as well as for cases of acute and chronic asthma. New England aster supports the release of lung tension through its relaxant effects, although the fresh blossoms act as more of a sedative herb when used. With acute or chronic asthma, New England aster can help by relaxing and dilating the lung’s passageways and releasing constriction. It works best when used before spasms occur as the plant is not as effective once these symptoms are underway.
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