Today’s tour host is Michelle Louring, who will be sharing a guest post from me about how to write about nameless characters. I hope the post is helpful to fellow authors.
10 ‘Magical’ Plants
Today, we know that myriad plants have healing properties. We see it as science or nature, but ancient humans saw magic in these plants, which were used not only for magical rituals, but also for healing purposes. It’s beyond me why more natural remedies are not used in treating today’s ailments – with no harmful side effects, as is the case with modern drugs, one would expect these natural treatments to be the first choice. Sadly, it’s all about the money, and drug companies cannot make money from plants everyone can grow in their gardens at home, which is why, I believe, plants with ‘magical’ healing properties are downplayed, not mentioned at all or used to create pharmaceuticals.
Let’s take a look at some of these ‘ancient’ plants, many of which you may not have realised are so useful to humanity.
The mandrake plant’s roots and berries were once used as an anaesthetic or painkiller, but, by the Middle Ages, it was used solely in the practice of magic. When worn as an amulet, mandrake was believed to bring wealth to the wearer or make soldiers invisible to their enemies. German troops in World War 2 believed this too, and wore mandrake around their necks. It didn’t work, of course, as is evident by the fact that Germany lost the war, but perhaps that was because the cosmic Powers That Be deemed the Nazis unworthy of such aid.
Willow bark was used by the Ancient Greeks to ease rheumatic pains, and chewed by the Ancient Egyptians to relieve headaches and fever. Modern research discovered that the bark contains salicylic acid, which led to the development of aspirin. Perhaps modern medicines can be stored for longer than uprooted plants and do not need the care that living plants do, but I still think natural is best and we should all be chewing willow bark instead of popping an aspirin each time we have a headache – assuming, of course, the plant grows in your region. That said, there are myriad plants that can ease the same ailments, so, if we looked hard enough, I’m sure we would discover that each region is home to at least one such plant.
The aloe plant, which was believed to protect one from evil, can also be used to treat skin conditions such as bruises, sunburn or rashes, and the sap is known to ease haemorrhoids and have positive effects on the tonsils, gums and eyes. Pulverised Aloe leaf also stops some wounds from bleeding.
In ancient times, pomegranates were symbols of fertility. In modern times, we know it has high antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties, and is believed to decrease inflammation.
5. Tamanu tree/laurelwood
Ancient humans treated the tamanu tree as sacred and a gift from nature, and believed the gods secreted themselves in its branches. Today, the seeds’ oil is believed to regenerate tissue, and it’s thus used by many cosmetics manufacturers as an ingredient in skin creams. The tamanu tree’s leaves can be used as an inhalant to treat vertigo and migraines.
Vervain was a sacred plant to the Druids, who used it for healing, divination, purification, ritual cleansing and consecration, amongst other things. The Romans used it on altars to honour the goddesses Diana and Venus, King Solomon is said to have used it to cleanse the temple, Ancient Druid priests used it for sacrifices, and sorcerers used it in spells. It was also worn around the neck to ward against headaches and venomous bites, and for good luck. Vervain has aphrodisiac qualities and its medicinal uses are almost countless. It can be used to effectively treat fevers, ulcers, bladder afflictions, muscle spasms, headaches, bowl pain, haemorrhoids and rheumatism, and many more ailments.
7. False Unicorn Root
False unicorn root has been used by Native Americans and trained midwives for hundreds of years. Ancient humans wore it around their necks for protection when pregnant, and to restore balance and inner peace, believing it to contain powerful magic. Today, we know that it strengthens and normalises the reproductive system, and can also bring relief for ovarian pain, ovarian cysts, menstruation, morning sickness, symptoms of menopause, infertility, digestive problems and water retention.
Ancient humans used wormwood to counteract poisoning by toadstools, hemlock and sea dragon bites, and to call on the spirits of the dead. It has great medicinal value, and can be used to treat fever, appetite loss, gall bladder and liver disease, worm infections, intestinal spasms, an upset stomach and general pain, and can be applied to the skin to heal wounds and insect bites.
Jewish folklore has it that basil gives strength to those who are fasting, while European lore sometimes states that it represents the Devil, and African lore claims it protects against scorpions. In Europe, it was placed in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey to the afterlife, in India it was placed in the mouth of the dying, and in Ancient Greece and Egypt it was believed the plant would open the gates of Heaven for the dying. It’s known to eliminate phlegm, strengthen the stomach, reduce stress, alleviate asthma, help treat diabetes and promote digestion. In vitro studies have determined that basil oil also has potent antiviral, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, and that it might be a good treatment for cancer.
I’ve saved the most controversial ‘magical’ plant for last. The Ancient Chinese saw cannabis as a symbol of power over evil, and believed that the plant enabled one to see devils and communicate with the spirits. They also used it to treat malaria, constipation, absent-mindedness, rheumatic pains and general pain. In Africa, it was used as an antiseptic, and to relieve haemorrhoid pain and restore appetite. The Germanic peoples believed the goddess Freya lived inside the plant’s flowers and that ingesting the flowers would fill them with a divine force. Many believe that even Jesus of the Christian Bible used cannabis oil to heal and relieve pain. Today, it’s been proven that the Cannabis plant can be used to treat a variety of ailments – in fact, almost anything that relates to the body’s cells not being in the state they should be. Its medicinal uses include appetite stimulation, pain relief and prevention of infection, and it can also be used to treat epilepsy, rheumatism, glaucoma, arthritis, ear infections, muscle spasms, migraines, depression and mood disorders. In fact, until around 1937, most muscle ointments, corn plasters and fibrosis poultices were made from cannabis extract, and it’s believed that even the anointing oil Jesus used contained cannabis extract.
Have you used any of these plants to treat an ailment and, if so, what were the results?