Heather – Calluna vulgaris / Erica spp
Sensory Experiences: Astringent, sweet, nutty, mineral
Heather, with her purple rinse, is a resilient old bird full of gifts of humour and a deep dirty laugh that bubbles up, often with witty quips. She has a spring in her step, a youthful Crone.
She is a psychic; full of prophetic insight. Her magic is feminine and she can gift you with babies if asked the right way.
She holds memories and healing in her ‘waters’. Listen carefully to her joking ways; there are pearls of wisdom in there, wise words to solve relationship woes.
Heather (both the Calluna and Erica species) is unfashionable in modern herbal medicine. Perhaps her purple rinses are just too ‘passé’ for some but watch this space as she is becoming fashionably retro! She is indeed connected to the later years of life, to wisdom and moving into the Crone phase or dark moon energy. She is loved by the bees who buzz around drinking and collecting from her purple blooms.
Up high on moorlands and down by sea cliffs, swathes of purple, violets and mauves dance in high winds, loving the acidic ericaceous soils. Heather is a tree, a gnarly ancient miniature tree, clinging on to the earth and unmoved by battering weathers. She flowers in late summer, and harvesting the flowers is usually a quest, heading out on the wild moors or the hills to find this hardy medicine. She counsels perseverance. All her aerial parts are papery to the touch, therefore taking little time to dry and process for making remedies.
She is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and diuretic, an excellent remedy for the urinary system and for aching joints. We utilise her flowers and leaves dried in our joint and urinary tea mixes, also as an infused oil in Ache Ease Balm, as a tincture in our Clear Vision Drops.
Heather contains a compound called Arbutin, which is in part responsible for the urinary antiseptic qualities. This compound is also present in her perhaps more famously-used cousin Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, commonly called bearberry. Bearberry, also in the plant family Ericaceae, is famous amongst herbalists for being one of the best urinary antiseptics since heather has fallen out of fashion.
The anti-infective and diuretic action in the kidneys indicates Heather’s use in encouraging harmony within relationships. Any herb connected to the kidneys, a paired organ, usually indicates it can be used where there is a difficulty with communication in relationships, especially partnerships. The kidneys and kidney herbs also have a connection with our ancestry, being the ‘house of ancestral Qi’ and heather can shine a light on where, what and how our blood lines can affect us in this life time.
Heather offers us the gift of seeing clearly what is really happening in any given situation, being able to take a step back and witness in an objective way. She has the added quality of promoting positive communal living, which is indicated by the bees love of Heather. Bees have been long associated with communities and social order reflected in the extraordinary structure within a hive. Each bee has a clearly defined, specific role but the hive is viewed as one organism rather than thousands of individuals. They cannot function in isolation. Heather is such a strong survivor, up on the heathlands and moorlands subjected to extremes of weather, totally exposed and thriving. We love this majestic, purple oracle. We could all use some of Heather’s deep insights and perseverance from time to time.
We harvest herbs to support the kidneys and tissues of the bladder which can be drunk when cystitis is an issue. Herbs such as:
• Marshmallow leaf
The herbs are harvested, dried on paper, usually in an airing cupboard, and turned regularly until dry, a few days later. The herbs are combined. A large pot of the tea, made with a desert spoon of the mixed herbs, can be drunk 3 times daily until symptoms abate. We always incorporate heather for its plethora of useful actions; anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, mucous membrane restorative.
Clear Vision Drops
Our Clear Vision drops contain Heather and Bilberry tinctures for connecting to innate wisdom, trusting intuition and transitioning through menopause into the ‘wise-woman’ phase smoothly. These drops encourage ‘Action not Reaction’, the ability to stop and reflect on emotions as they arise, rather than countering in the heat of the moment. Heather has been traditionally used as a nervine herb, supporting and nourishing to the nervous system.
Ache Ease Balm
Ache Ease Balm is a joy to make from 5 incredible commonly growing plants….it also smells delicious and we have seen this balm work miracles on people’s aches and pains over the years…
here is our recipe for you to try creating it for yourself.
Infused oils of heather, horse-radish, comfrey.
Rosemary and peppermint essential oil.
4 parts oil
2 parts shea or cocoa butter
1 part beeswax
Put oil, cocoa butter and 80% of beeswax in a bain-marie and heat until melted.
Use a plate from the fridge or freezer and drop mix onto it to test if it sets. Add more beeswax if necessary. Heat for a while so all ingredients blend well together.
Heather – Anti-inflammatory, diuretic
Horseradish – circulatory, rubifaceant
Comfrey – connective tissue restorative
Peppermint – (The oil of a buoyant heart ) – anti-spasmodic, nervine
Rosemary – rubifaceant, anti-spasmidoc, circulatory
making herbal balms
Abundant local herbs
From the late 15th century, after many years of secrecy and restriction, trade routes were explored in search of exotic spices. Spices such as black pepper, cloves, ginger, cardamom and many others were sourced. Since this period, exotic, foreign medicines have been looked upon as more exciting. Many of our prolific local herbs have fallen out of fashion, overlooked for centuries. This is the case with the Heather flower. Once so prevalent in apothecaries and herbal practices, she is now almost lost to the modern university-trained herbalist. Few herb shops stock Heather as a loose herb, but the heathland and moors are literally covered in her purple hues!
The UK’s 3.7 million hectares of upland heathland are of international importance for nature conservation. This habitat is confined to north-west Europe, especially the UK. This is where Heather grows in abundance.
Heather has a special type of mycorrhizal fungus which lives symbiotically with other plants of the same family such as Bilberry, to create bioavailability of vital nutrients. This mycorrhiza, named Ericoid endomycorrhiza is able to pass nitrogen and even carbon into the plants for nourishment. This enables the species to exist in extremely harsh and sandy environments, where few nutrients are available. Heather teaches us how to survive.
Extract from The Sensory Herbal Handbook
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