Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Healer's Hands

“Slan-lus, Thrumwort
Our broad green hands
hold aloft a slender wand.
Though many revile us,
generous Healing 
is how we choose to respond.

Drink me, 
bathe in our essence
tincture, poultice, tea or salve
we will wave away pain,
soothe burns or bites,
cleanse blood, banish poison.
Master Healer, 
yet most often thought a weed
when found within your lawn!

We will teach you
of tenacity, and stability,
Herald of spring,
yet my garb is plainly spun.
Soldier's herb, Englishman's foot,
Treasured by Alexander the Great
One of the sacred nine of Saxon lore,
Waybread, Ripple Grass, Snakeweed
We show you
when new life has begun!”

For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? Congrats to Chris Brockman, Desert Dreamer, and Legion for naming this Teacher!

“Just as the soft rains fill the streams,
pour into the rivers and join together in the oceans,
so may the power of every moment of your goodness
flow forth to awaken and heal all beings,
Those here now, those gone before, those yet to come." beginning of a traditional Buddhist blessing

“The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.” Henry Ward Beecher

“When the world says, “Give up,”
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” Unknown

Greater Plantain is also known as: broad-leaved plantain, ripple grass, waybread, slan-lus, waybroad, snakeweed, cuckoo’s bread, englishman’s foot, white man’s foot, buckhorn plantain, dog’s ribs, hock cockle, lance-leaved plantain, rub grass, dooryard plantain, round-leaved plantain, hard head, devil’s head, fighting cocks, and thrumwort. This is one of the most common “weeds” found in the Americas, and people remain relatively ignorant of its many uses. If you walked outside right now, chances are you could probably find this Master herb right away, and someone would probably be on hand to tell you what a useless and annoying weed it is too!

There are over 200 species of plantain, the most well known in the Americas being Plantago major (greater plantain) and Plantago lanceolata (lesser plantain). They are very similar in appearance, and in their medicinal uses. Plantago major is a broad-leafed, low growing green plant which is believed to have originated in Eurasia by settlers who have used these plants for their edible and medicinal properties since at least the time of Pliny. It will grow in full sun or full shade in just about any soil conditions. 

The basal leaves, which form rosettes that tend to hug the ground, can grow to about 6" long and 4" wide, but their size will vary widely depending on light and soil conditions. Through the summer and fall, the plantain will grow an upright leafless flower stalk that can reach about 10" in length and is covered in small nubby seeds. Lesser plantain has narrower longer leavers and the flowering stalk is basically a long green stem with a cone-like cluster of flowers at the top. Take a look at the pictures to see the differences. None of these species of plantain have anything to do with the banana-like fruit.

Tender new leaves or stalks of the plantains are good fresh in salads, and cooked as a spinach substitute. Leaves become tough quickly though, so best to pick them while young. The seeds are said to have a nutty taste, can be parched and then ground into flour. Leaves, seeds or roots can all be used to make a tea. Certain caterpillars and birds consider these plants an important food source, which would make those Creatures balancing energies for this plant, along with Toad, Spider, and Snake. Plantain was considered a panacea, a cure-all, good for anything and everything. Very high in beta carotene and calcium, it also provides vitamins c and k!

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” Dale Carnegie

It contains many helpful chemicals: allantoin, apigenin, aucubin, baicalein, linoleic acid, oleanolic acid, sorbitol, and tannin, which make it useful as a mild anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antihemorrhagic, anti-toxin, astringent, demulcent, emollient, diuretic, vulnerary, and expectorant. Allanttoin has been proved today to promote healing in wounds, soften skin and even to speed up cell regeneration! 
Medical research has also shown this plant to be an excellent treatment for lung conditions like asthma and bronchitis, it eases coughs and mucus membrane irritation associated with upper respiratory infections, and topically for skin inflammations. Stings, burns, scrapes and other minor injuries will receive immediate relief from simply crushing a few leaves and applying directly to the affected area. The juices seem marvelously effective at relieving pain, staunching blood flow, and closing the edges of wounds as well as easing sunburn.

To create a soothing wash take a handful of fresh leaves for every cup or two of water and bring to a gentle boil in a non-metal pan. Turn off the heat and steep before straining. This wash is best when fresh but can be stored covered in the fridge for several days. Herbally infused oil is equally useful and easy to make. Lightly bruised or crushed leaves covered in any vegetable oil in a covered container can be put in the sun for about two weeks. It will turn a lovely dark green color which will need to be strained before it is stored.

It is wonderful for a wide variety of skin conditions including: rashes, bruises, sprains, wounds, swelling, burns, cracked lips, poison ivy, eczema, boils, blisters, hemorrhoids, bee stings, spider bites, snake bites, and diaper rash! It will even draw out splinters and thorns, and reduce the risk of scarring! Internally, in addition to uses already mentioned, it has been useful in treating: goiter, hay fever, irritable bowels, PMS, colds and flu, kidney stones, sinusitis, sciatica, hypertension, sore eyes, as a menstrual regulator and blood sugar stabilizer for diabetics. There has even been some recent indication that it may be helpful in smoking cessation!

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.” Earl Nightingale

Thus far, research has shown almost no ill side effects other than that some allergy sufferers reacted to the pollen, but they were still able to use other parts of this amazing little plant. Plantain has been deemed safe for use on children by the American Herbal Retailers Association. As always, one should never use any herbal remedy while pregnant or breast feeding, without the knowledge of your family physician, or gathered from any place where they may have been sprayed with chemicals or other potentially harmful treatments.

I find it utterly amazing that we have gone to treasuring this prized Master Healer to looking on it in contempt and revulsion as a “weed”! I doubt anyone could even really say when the transition of opinion occurred. I have chosen the Plantain as the final plant in The Fields of Forever to share online for exactly this reason. More than any other plant, perhaps, this Teacher asks all of us to pay attention and really understand what we are looking at when we view the world around us. This Teacher reminds us that there truly are no useless things or "weeds" in the world. Only Teachers that we have forgotten how to learn from in our own daily lives. Plantain also teaches us about the importance of tenacity, stability, moderation, and wisdom lost, hidden or regained. This humble Teacher reminds me that nothing, no matter how ancient or long hidden, is truly lost for good. Ask for it, respect everything, and the Universe will provide.

Known simply as the “Healing Plant” in Scotland and associated with the Lung, Liver and Kidney meridians in Chinese medicine, magically this plant is used for divinations of all sorts and to induce prophetic dreams. It has been used to protect children from abduction by the Sidhe, and Toads were thought to heal themselves of injuries and poisons with this humble Healer. You might wear or hang plantain leaves in your home or car to ward off evil influences, promote healing, ward from snake bites, jealousy, poisonous influences, headaches, and to remove weariness. A pinch of this dried herb as an incense or offered to the East wind brings healing. As a Master Healer, this plant is associated with any Gods or Goddesses of Healing and is a gift from our Creator. How does the humble Plantain appear in your life?

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” ~ Buddhist Saying

“May every creature abound in well-being and peace.
May every living being, weak or strong, the long and the small
The short and the medium-sized, the mean and the great
May every living being, seen or unseen, those dwelling far off,
Those near by, those already born, those waiting to be born
May all attain inward peace.

Let no one deceive another
Let no one despise another in any situation
Let no one, from antipathy or hatred, wish evil to anyone at all.
Just as a mother, with her own life, protects her only son from hurt
So within yourself foster a limitless concern for every living creature.

Display a heart of boundless love for all the world
In all its height and depth and broad extent
Love unrestrained, without hate or enmity.
Then as you stand or walk, sit or lie, until overcome by drowsiness
Devote your mind entirely to this, it is known as living here life divine."

a Buddhist blessing

“May the blessings of love be upon you
May its peace abide with you
May its essence illuminate your heart
Now and forever more….” Sufi blessing

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